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Aug, 2020

ISC Alum Gabby Kouzelos Enters Fall as One of Country’s Top Goalkeepers

Internationals SC Gabby Kouzelos enters the 2020 fall season as one of the most decorated and accomplished goalkeepers in all of Division I soccer.  Expectations are high for Kouzelos and the entire Cardinals women’s soccer program.  We’re talking championships and major awards.

From 2017-2019, Kouzelos made 56 appearances (all starts), registering 135 saves and a 0.93 GAA.  She earned a myriad of awards, including All-ACC Second Team, All-ACC Academic Women's Soccer Team, All-ACC Academic Honor Roll, Red and Black Scholar-Athlete, ACC Defender of the Week, AD Honor Roll, and ACC Honor Roll honors. 

Recently she was named one of the top goalkeepers in the country by Top Drawer Soccer.

“I did not come to Louisville for the accolades,” Kouzelos said. “I did not want to play college soccer to have all of the accolades.  I wanted to play college soccer because that was a dream that I've had since I was a little girl.  I can't really take any of the recognition.  My faith is something that means a lot to me.  And I wouldn't be in Louisville if God didn't open doors for me, if God didn't give me the talents and abilities that I have. So honestly, all glory and honor goes to him for keeping me healthy and for giving me a talent and a gift that I can reach people with.  I was on vacation in the Outer Banks with my family when I got the update that Top Drawer Soccer had put me on that list.  I just I got extremely emotional because you work your whole life to kind of reach the peak of the pinnacle of your career.  And right now, this is this is it for me.  This is my last year.  I just felt so honored and blessed to get that recognition.  I wouldn't be able to do it without my family, wouldn't have been able to do it without the club I grew up with.  I wouldn't be able to do it without my teammates and my coaches here at Louisville.  I absolutely wouldn't be able to do it if God didn't open those doors for me, so it's a blessing and an honor.  But all credit goes to God for giving me the abilities that he has and just given me a platform.”

Louisville women’s soccer head coach Karen Ferguson-Dayes has been incredibly impressed with Kouzelos’ growth as a player and leader. “Gabby is our team captain because she is a tremendous leader both on and off the field,” Ferguson-Dayes said. “She is committed to being the best goalkeeper and teammate she can be and is fully committed to helping our team reach its full potential.  She is brave, has great hands and is exceptional at dealing with crosses.  She commands a high level of respect from her teammates, coaches and opponents.  I truly believe Gabby is not only one of the best goalkeepers in the ACC but in the country as well.  I’m excited for her senior season and look forward to watching her lead our team.”

Kouzelos has prepared for this leadership role her entire career. “Being named team captain is one of the biggest honors that I think I could have received,” Kouzelos said. “I found a Word document on my laptop actually a couple weeks ago that had some goals from 2015 before I got to college, and one of them was to be the captain of my team.  To have that dream and that goal be brought to fruition this year has been awesome.  I get to lead an unbelievable team. They make it very, very easy to lead because they just love to be here and they love what we do.  We run things a little bit different at Louisville. I have a lot of girls that helped me lead.  It's not just me, it's not just my voice.  Every girl on our team has a voice.  Every girl on our team is heard.  Every girl has their own opinion and what they think matters.  It's been an absolute honor to be the captain of this team, but it's definitely a goal achieved.  And I'm just I'm happy that that I get to be the leader of this team.”

Being a leader has helped prepare her for the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think it's been hard just like everybody has kind of gone through,” Kouzelos said. “My coach always tells us adaptability is the best ability.  Because the more that we can adapt to things, the more that we are prepared for the changes that are going to happen, the more stable our emotions and our reactions will be.  It definitely has been hard.  I was named captain at the beginning of this year. And then we go home for spring break and then don't come back for a couple months. I've learned a lot about myself as a leader.  I've adapted to FaceTime calls, being intentional with calling my teammates, being intentional with checking in on their mental health and their physical and emotional health.  And I've definitely learned a lot about myself as a leader and how many different facets there are to leadership.  COVID has been difficult.  I won't I say it's been easy, but I think what it has done is grown me as a leader.  And it's kind of pointed out some things that I can work on, but also highlighted some things that I do well as a leader. It's been difficult but I would say we're coming out the other side of it.  There's light at the end of the tunnel and our team is growing through it all.”

Kouzelos is thriving despite the uncertainty surrounding the fall season. 

“I think it's kind of hard right now because a lot of things are up in the air,” Kouzelos said. “We don't really know exactly what the season is going to look like or what's going to happen due to COVID reasons.  All we can do is kind of focus on us and focus on development as a team. So whatever games we do get to play, I think that we're just going to focus on being the best Louisville Women's soccer team that we can be.  We've always had the goal of winning an ACC championship and, and whether we get to play 10 games, six games, 12 games, whatever that looks like, that's still our goal.  Our goal is to win championships. So that's what we're planning on doing this fall no matter what that looks like.  It's crazy to think that my college career is coming to an end, but I'm going into it with a little bit more urgency than I have in years past. I’m holding myself to a high standard, challenging myself to surpass some accolades that I got last year.  I’m always striving to be better than I was the day before. So those are some goals and things that I have set in place for myself, but I came here to win championships and that's what we're going to do in the fall.”

Looking ahead, Kouzelos has some impressive long-term goals.

“On the field, after I graduate, I am going to enter the NWSL Draft and try and get drafted,” Kouzelos said. “If that doesn't work, I’m potentially looking into playing overseas, just extending my career as long as I possibly can, no matter what that looks like.  I'm working towards getting a degree in exercise science as well as psychology.  I have a dream of being a coach.  I also have the dream of getting my master's in exercise physiology and maybe being able to take the knowledge that I have in strength and conditioning and bring that into the soccer realm.  I want to use all of my passions, instead of doing them all separate, bringing them all together.  I would absolutely love to be a goalkeeper director of a club.  I want to work with high school kids.  I want to work in that developmental stage, bringing in my knowledge and passion and love for strength and conditioning.”

The Wadsworth, Ohio native truly appreciates the support and guidance that she has received at Louisville.

“I'm surrounded by so many phenomenal people at this university,” Kouzelos said. “I always tell people who come to Louisville if you can't succeed here, you're doing something wrong because the support that we have is unbelievable.  I've had three strength coaches in my five years here. They have really taken the time to invest in me and really show me why I want to be a strength coach.  My coaching staff is unbelievable.  My goalkeeper coach, Tim Nowak, is the reason that I am the goalkeeper that I am today.  He focuses on the tactical game and my positioning on the field, but he has also gotten to know me as an individual and just wants me to be successful and he will do anything he can to do that.  I am in very good hands with him.  And then obviously my head coach, Karen (Ferguson-Dayes), she sets the standards, that's for sure.  She prides herself on honesty and transparency.  She always tells us that when we leave this program, she wants us to be strong, powerful, and confident women.  Not only is she seeing our potential on the field and trying to pull that out of us, but she's also holding us to a standard away from the field and being powerful women and strong women.  I can't pick just one person as my biggest influence because I play for the best coaches.  It is an honor and a blessing to represent them in every facet of my life.  They really have impacted me in my college career.”

Kouzelos has become a dominant force in goal, a keeper that can make an impact, be the difference maker in any game.  She truly enjoys being a goalkeeper and gladly takes on the responsibility involved with the position. 

“I love it,” Kouzelos said. “That's all I can say.  I absolutely love it.  I'm an extremely passionate goalkeeper.  I absolutely love the game of soccer.  And I love my teammates, and I love going into battle with them every single day.  If I had to describe myself in one word, it would be passionate.  I'm extremely loud and vocal.  I try and have my presence felt on the field before the whistle blows.  I take a lot of pride in playing a really high line, which I think a lot of people see when I play.  I'm very connected to our backline.  I love taking balls out of the air, taking crosses is just another way to have my presence felt in the game. But I absolutely have such a love for the game of soccer and I think that shows with the passion that I play with.”

All of Kouzelos’ success began with the tremendous foundation she received as a member of Internationals SC.

“Keri (Sarver) and Zdravko (Popovic) saw potential in me that I didn't even know that I had when I was nine years old,” Kouzelos said. “I remember Zdravko’s dad used to sit behind the goal and encourage me at games and again, they saw potential in me that I didn't even know that I had.  Growing up through high school and in the club, Keri Sarver was my main coach for my team, and I also got to play under her at some national team camps.  Being able to learn from them and learn from a culture that's been around for so long was great.  They really developed me and showed passion and the talent that I had, and really took time to develop it, and challenged me and pushed me to be the best goalkeeper that I can be.  I don't think I would be where I am today without those two and without the club.  It has a very special place in my heart. They taught me respect and discipline and commitment to what you want, set goals for yourself and do everything in your power to achieve those goals. And I truly believe they're the reason that I'm standing at the University of Louisville.”

Sarver was quick to praise her former player. 

"I've said time and time again that Gabby Kouzelos has become the ultimate role model for the type of player and person that we try to cultivate through our club,” Sarver said. “She is authentic and rooted in goodness and this transcends every aspect of her life.  As a player she has grown tremendously in goal for Louisville.  Her distribution, range, ability to read the game, confidence and leadership have all improved.  She is poised for a tremendous senior season and the opportunity to continue to display her love and passion for the game at the professional level.  We are proud but not surprised by the recognition as one of the top 10 goalkeeper in the country.  She has worked hard for this moment and has earned every bit of success she has received.  One of our club highlights during the past six months was having Gabby spend time with our players during virtual meetings.  She is mentoring and inspiring the next generation of Internationals players.  We wish her many more years of heath, happiness and success on the field and are ready to welcome her back home as a staff member as soon as she is ready."

Kouzelos is already one of the top goalkeepers in all of college soccer, but she is just getting started.  The sky’s the limit for this Internationals SC alumnae both on and off the field and you’ll be hearing her name for years to come.   

Photo Credit: UofL Athletics

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