Buono’s got the goods for SFU Clan

Coquitlam’s Kiara Buono is the youngest player on the Simon Fraser University Clan women’s soccer team. But the 17-year-old isn’t letting that hold her back.

The freshman out of Centennial secondary school is a starting midfielder on Burnaby mountain, racking up minutes, if not goals — yet.

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In fact, the Clan had yet to score in four games leading into their home opener last Thursday. But it was Buono who helped crack that goose egg when she set up fellow freshman Giuliana Zuarrini for the team’s first goal in a 2-1 loss to Central Washington. As well, she’s second to Zuarrini in shots, with nine — four of them on net. (SFU’s scoring drought resumed Saturday, when they were shutout 3-0 by Western Washington University)

Buono said coming from a high school program that is the two-time defending provincial girls’ champion, she was eager to make an impact at the next level. So she spent the summer following a vigorous training regime that included sprinting and running high-intensity intervals at the track five days a week. Once the season started, she added lifting weights in the gym every Tuesday under the guidance of a personal trainer.

“So much more is at stake,” Buono said of her ascent to university soccer.

Buono’s transition on the pitch has been aided by the proliferation of fellow freshman — nine in all — in the Clan’s lineup and the familiar faces of several former teammates from Centennial as well as her Mountain United club team in the BC Premier League.

“It’s like a big friend group,” she said.

But when the referee’s whistle blows, the smiles and banter of training are replaced by competitive intensity.

Buono, who’s studying psychology and criminology, said she has made a point of listening to and learning from the team’s veteran players, such as Carli Grosso.

But she said getting up to speed in the college game has been an adjustment.

“It’s so much faster,” she said. “Everyone is so much more skilled. They’re bigger and stronger.”

What the 5’6” Buono lacks in stature, she makes up for with confidence. She said she accepts there will be setbacks and frustrations but she has to put those behind her quickly to move forward.

“It really is a mental game,” Buono said. “You can’t mope. You have to get right up again and keep playing.”

• The Clan host St. Martin’s University tonight at 6 p.m. at Terry Fox Field. The team then embarks on four straight road games, returning to SFU for their next home game on Oct. 26, 1 p.m., against Concordia University.

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