Many U of T students would argue that double majoring in human biology and psychology would take up most of their time. UTSC alumna Victoria Mata begs to differ. Alongside academics, Mata has played in multiple teams across three sports — soccer, ice hockey, and field hockey — and helped lead most of her teams into finals competitions. Her time on the grass, turf, and ice introduced her to various communities that have shaped the person she is today.

A balancing act

Mata’s dedication to sports started long before university. At 11 years old, she began her soccer journey as a goalkeeper. At 13, she took up ice hockey, and in grade 11, she joined field hockey. With the hopes of continuing her athletics in university, Mata quickly stumbled upon a problem. Initially starting as a student at UTM in 2019, the distance between her home in Scarborough and UTM halted her athletic ambitions. 

Nevertheless, after transferring to UTSC in fall 2021, Mata wasted no time finding her way into the athletic community. She joined Division 2 soccer, Tri-Campus soccer, and ice hockey, playing a vital role in each team. She also joined UTSC’s interhouse soccer league — a recreational league where UTSC students form their own teams and play against each other. Her first taste of a championship came in winter 2022 when her Division 2 women’s soccer team dominated the intramural league. 

Mata also participated in non-athletic extracurriculars as part of UTSC’s Greek Students’ Association and the Scarborough College Athletic Association. Alongside her biology and psychology classes, Mata still insisted on making time to be a student athlete. 

In an interview with The Varsity, Mata reflected on balancing her various athletic commitments with academics and other extracurriculars. “It’s probably my number one way of de-stressing… I feel like it just helps you forget about academics for at least an hour, 45 minutes,” she said. When asked if she experienced any struggles with time management, Mata laughed with surprise. “Honestly, I think I balanced everything pretty good,” she said. 

Her biggest challenge was in balancing her three sports. But from conflicting practice times to unexpected injuries, Mata successfully found ways to make up for her absences and maintain her quality performance. 

UTSC’s female athlete of the year 2023

On the evening of April 1, 2023, Mata went into the Chelsea Hotel to celebrate UTSC athletes and their performances throughout the year in the 57th Annual Athletic Banquet. It was at this event that she added a hefty trophy to her collection. Mata won the Dickinson Award, also known as the Athlete of the Year award, given to the male and female athletes who excelled most in ability and participation. 

“It completed my undergrad journey. And I’m grateful for that. And I’m really happy about it,” Mata told The Varsity

Despite already being deeply involved in UTSC’s athletic community, in her last undergrad semester, Mata played three different sports across five different teams: Tri-campus soccer; Division 2 soccer; interhouse soccer; and Division 1 ice hockey and field hockey. She reflected on her mentality when entering her last year of undergrad: “It was like, ‘go big or go home.’ So, I was determined to do well,” she said. 

Mata explained that her commitment to a multitude of sports originated from the COVID-19 pandemic, which hindered her opportunities to play. “So, I basically just piled on every sport I wanted to do throughout my undergrad into my last year… just so that I can check mark it and say, ‘Yes, I did it,’” Mata added. At the end of her 2022–2023 academic year, Mata had collected two interhouse championships, four appearances in intramural finals, and the Dickinson Award. 

On April 1 2023, Mata received the Female Dickinson Award at UTSC’s Annual Athletic Banquet. COURTESY OF MARC ALOLOD

Player turned coach

After graduating in June 2023, Mata returned to UTSC as a Division 2 women’s soccer coach. Her transition from playing to coaching has taught her how to promote team building and create sports strategies. As much as she wants to get on the field and help her team, Mata has shifted her perspective to focus on how to help her players improve.

However, practices and drills can only go so far. One of her biggest challenges as a coach is instilling more passion and commitment in her players. She mentioned, “We want them to have some sort of passion towards the sport for us to do well.” Despite these obstacles, Mata and co-coach Joshua Solomons managed to lead their team, the Division 2 women’s team, to the finals in the fall. However, they fell just short, losing 2–1 to the Law A team.

With one semester of coaching experience under her belt, Mata hopes to continue contributing to and nurturing the community that welcomed her. “I want to get the players better than when they initially came to us and hopefully bring home championships,” she said. 

The next chapter

“One of my first interactions [in] UTSC was through sports. And yeah, like the individuals I met were kind… and welcoming. Yeah, [I] just wanted to do the same,” she said.

Her ambitions as a coach have only grown stronger, as she aims to bring home a championship this winter. Furthermore, she plans to continue her academic journey by pursuing a Masters of Education, and intends to play soccer at whatever institution she attends. 

Mata has left her mark in the UTSC athletics community as a student athlete who’s demonstrated commitment and passion across three sports. Both as a player and a coach, she has proven her dedication to helping those around her improve and grow. Wherever Mata ends up, it is safe to say that she will be standing her ground and defending what life kicks at her. 

Disclosure: Victoria Mata is the current Vice-President Campus Life at the Scarborough Campus Students’ Union.

Editor’s Note: A Sports article published in issue 17 entitled “Victoria Mata, UTSC’s multi-sport athlete turned soccer coach” incorrectly referred to the Division 2 women’s soccer team in the UTSC intramural soccer league as the Maroons. In fact, they are referred to as the Division 2 women’s team.