When Orléans native Erik Lefebvre graduated from Beatrice Desloges High School a few years back, he says there was only one thing on his mind: soccer.
Eric Lefebvre. Photo supplied
So when the 21-year-old goaltender was asked to play footie at Houghton College in upstate New York, he says he didn’t think twice.
“The reason I chose to come down here was because of the higher level of competition,” explains Lefebvre, recently selected Player of the Week in the American Mideast Conference for allowing just two goals in over 200 minutes versus rivals Walsh College and the University of Rio Grande.
Having played amateur and professional ball for the Cumberland Cobras and Ottawa Royals as a teenager, Lefebvre says he was used to playing at an elevated level. After being offered full athletic and academic scholarships by the school, however, the decision to head south was a no-brainer. “Although I think my first year it was an adjustment to get used to the level of play,” the third-year student, who returns to Ottawa each summer to coach for Cumberland, continues. “But for the past two years, I’ve tried to maintain good performances across the board.”
Indeed, Lefebvre’s team has gone 3-0 while allowing zero goals over the past three games, a record the goalie attributes to good team play and a commitment to a strong defensive game. Houghton’s overall record this season is 7-2-3.
Playing above his own level has been a staple of Lefebvre’s career, says his father, Roch, who still lives in Orléans with Lefebvre’s mom and brother. After a local grade-school teacher asked his son about his career aspirations, “(Erik) said he wanted to be a professional soccer player,” smiles his dad. “Since the age of 10 it’s been in his mind, and he’s always wanted to do it.”
It wasn’t long before he’d get his wish; at 15, Lefebvre was stoning 18-year-old strikers with the St. Anthony Italia Soccer Club in the well-regarded Ontario Soccer League. A few years later, at just 18, he was named first-string goalie for the Ottawa Royals competitive club, recording a minuscule .875 goals-against average and helping the team win an Ontario Cup Championship.
Houghton head coach Matt Webb says the six-foot-four Lefebvre has impressed scouts with his size and agility since going stateside. “He’s really earned respect across the country for his play, and I expect he’ll be playing professionally soon,” says Webb, adding his goalkeeper made the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ second team All-American last year.
And while Lefebvre says he’d love to play in Europe once he graduates – at age 16, he tried out unsuccessfully for Troyes in the French soccer league Le Championat – he maintains as long as he’s able to play professionally somewhere, he’ll be happy. “Ideally, I’d like to go back to Europe – maybe France, or (the English Premiership) for sure,” he says. “Getting a shot to go back to Europe and try out for the big clubs would be great, but I wouldn’t be disappointed to stay here and play in (U.S. based Major League Soccer) as well.”
His dad, however, rationalizes it a little differently. “If he makes it he makes it,” he says. “And if he doesn’t he’ll achieve an education out of it, as well.”