Madison Wilford finished up her final season with the Bisons in spectacular fashion.
With four clean sheets in the final six games of the regular season, Wilford helped the Bisons finish with a 6-5-3 record. This put the herd third in the Canada West Prairie division, but the season ended with a first-round playoff exit, courtesy of the University of Northern British Columbia Timberwolves.
The Winnipeg-born keeper sat down recently to discuss her career in soccer, and where she hopes to go next.
Wilford began her soccer career at a young age and was pushed toward the sport by family.
“I started playing soccer when I was three,” she said. “I have two older sisters, so just kind of followed in their footsteps, whatever they did.”
Although Wilford has backstopped the Bisons for the past four years, she was not always a goalie.
“I was actually an outside midfielder for a while,” she said.
“When I was 11 or something, there was an injury and they needed somebody to step in net.”
Tending twine is in Wilford’s blood, as her sisters were both goalies. At the time her mom was happy Wilford was playing as an outside midfielder — she did not want to deal with the stress of another daughter playing goal.
However everything changed when Wilford stepped into the net for her injured teammate.
“I kind of grew up watching [my sisters] play the position and kind of knew the positioning, and just came super natural to me and I loved it,” said Wilford.
“Of course, much to my mother’s dismay I loved it.”
Soccer was not always the clear-cut choice for Wilford. She played ringette competitively and the sport was her focus until she turned 12 years old.
“Soccer was just something that I did in the summer to keep me in shape for ringette,” said Wilford.
The sport became a focus for Wilford when she was scouted to be in the National Development Centre Program, which was the academy program at Glenlawn Collegiate.
“We trained every morning at 7:30 in the morning before school started. It was a lot of soccer,” she said.
“I trained with my club team as well,” she said. “So often time having two soccer practices a day.”
Soccer took over Wilford’s life after that.
“I was playing high level ringette at that time, and just the feeling I got on the ice didn’t compare to the feeling I got when I was on the field,” said Wilford.
“It was a tough decision back then, but it was something that I really didn’t end up regretting whatsoever.”
Wilford joined the Bisons in 2014 and thought her U Sports career was over following the 2017 season.
She was not planning on playing in her fourth year, but joined the team late when Bisons head coach Vanessa Martinez Lagunas called asking for her to play.
“The girls and the group of people we had with the team this year was unlike any other and just the energy on the team was really amazing, really incredible to be around,” said Wilford.
Looking back on her career, Wilford has enjoyed her time playing for the University of Manitoba, but one game stands out.
“I definitely see our season in 2016 being a really good season,” said Wilford.
“For me individually I had some really good stats in that season and we went into first round playoffs being the last seeded team, playing number one Calgary, and we somehow managed to beat them 1-0.”
“I think actually after that game they changed the playoff structure so that wouldn’t happen again,” she said. “So that was incredible for sure and it was a very intense game I remember, it was interesting, it was freezing cold in Calgary, trying to beat the number one team.
“I had accidentally knocked someone unconscious during the game with one of my kicks, so there [were] a lot of different ups and downs during the game.”
Now with her Bison career over, Wilford said she is hoping to continue playing overseas.
“I’m thinking [the United Kingdom], because there’s no real language barrier over there,” she said.
“I can do outside work apart from soccer — obviously female soccer players don’t get paid amazing wages — so [the] U.K. would probably be the easiest, but honestly anywhere.”
Wilford will graduate this spring with a degree in recreation management and community development.
“I want to work in event planning, but more sport event planning,” said Wilford.
“Big tournaments, Commonwealth games, Olympics, that would be amazing, but something tournament style like that would be cool.”