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On the Ball

Not much got past senior goalie Ainsley Wheldon

Ainsley Wheldon guarding the net

Ainsley Wheldon ranks among the best goalkeepers in UB history. Photograph by Paul Hokanson

By David J. Hill

“You just have to take advantage of every day you get on the field. It can be taken away from you so fast.”
Ainsley Wheldon

Before each game, Ainsley Wheldon, the stellar senior goalkeeper on the UB women’s soccer team, brushed her teeth three to five times. She’s not sure how or why this ritual came about; she just knows it worked. “It was kind of like a reset thing for me,” the Waterloo, Ont., native says.

Whether her oral hygiene deserves any credit is debatable; not up for debate is Wheldon’s record. With 22 career victories, 385 saves and 20 shutouts—one short of tying the school record—Wheldon is one of the best goalkeepers UB has ever had. She ranks third all-time in saves and wins.

“Ainsley was part of one of the better defensive units in the history of UB soccer, and she’d be the first to tell you that it wasn’t all her,” says former coach Michael Thomas, who led the Bulls for the past six seasons. “But there were games where she absolutely stole us a couple points on the road. Her timing on balls in the air is exceptional.”

Wheldon’s career at UB began earlier than anticipated—she was a freshman when the team’s starting goalkeeper got injured. But toward the end of that season, she dislocated her shoulder attempting to make a save and was sidelined for the team’s final three games. It was a painful but valuable lesson. “There are times when you’re sore and you’re tired and you’ve got 10 other things you need to be doing,” she says, sounding wiser than her 21 years. “But you just have to take advantage of every day you get on the field. It can be taken away from you so fast.”

As a sophomore, Wheldon set program records both for shutouts in a season and for minutes played—statistics that ranked her among the best in the nation. At one point, she had a streak of seven shutouts in eight games. She continued to climb the program record books as a junior, becoming one of only six UB goalkeepers to eclipse 300 career saves.

With her collegiate career complete, Wheldon, who is majoring in exercise science, is considering playing soccer in Europe, and plans to coach one day. Looking back on her time at UB, she says, “It’s just great to know that I did something for a great school and was part of a great program. I hope there’s a lot of success for it in the future, and that people take as much pride in it as I did.”