Edmonton

Stephanie Labbe's Olympic debut at Rio 2016 comes with a shutout win

The pressure was on Stephanie Labbe in her first Olympic soccer game at Rio 2016. Despite her team being down a player for three-quarters of the game, she stopped all of the Australian shots.

'It was nerve-racking being down a player, but we were confident in Steph,' says brother

The family of Canadian goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe watch her Olympic debut against Australia. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

The pressure was on Stephanie Labbe in her first Olympic soccer game, and though Canada was down a player for three-quarters of the match she stopped every shot.

A continent away in Edmonton, her family watched from a local restaurant.

"Very nerve-racking,"  said Labbe's mother, Bev. "I was happy when we scored the first goal, then really happy when she got her first touch on the ball. That's so important for a keeper, to get the first touch and get comfortable. She was in her zone."

Canada beat Australia 2-0, but it wasn't an easy debut. Labbe turned away 12 shots while the Australian keeper only faced 4. The pressure mounted when Canada lost a player to a red card, which started an Australian onslaught of rushes and scoring chances.

Leah and Kevin Labbe watch as Stephanie stops a late Australian rally before a 2-0 win for Canada. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Kevin Labbe admits soccer is not his favourite sport, but as he watched his sister on the Rio 2016 stage he was very invested.

Just a year ago at the Women's World Cup, his sister was the third-string goalie. But after St. Albert keeper Erin McLeod underwent knee surgery and Karina Leblanc retired, a door opened.

"She's battled hard for a long time," Kevin Labbe said of his sister. "Because of pecking order and the quality of goaltending on the Canada program, it's been tough to get an opportunity."

Stephanie Labbe, 29, grew up on an acreage near Stony Plain and attended high school in Spruce Grove. Soccer has since taken her around the world.

She attended the University of Connecticut, then played five years in the Swedish professional league. She currently plays for the Washington Spirit of the National Women's Soccer League.

Bev Labbe said her daughter has sacrificed a lot to reach Rio.

"She's missed her five-year-old niece and two-year-old nephew growing up, but she sees them on Facetime," she said. "It's a struggle but when we see each other it's really good."

Bev Labbe, her husband and their son will travel to Rio de Janiero to watch the next three games. They'll cheer Stephanie on in hopes that her shutout streak will lead to more wins for a Canadian team with high expectations.

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