Demi Koulizakis: Most Improved, but more to come

Fresh off a trip to the NCAA Tournament and winning Texas Tech’s Most Improved Player award, Demi Koulizakis is back in Sydney for the Australian summer. We took the opportunity to catch up with the Red Raiders junior to get some insight into the 2018 season and what the future holds for the former Western Sydney Wanderers W-League player.

College Matildas: You came into this season having not started since early 2016 and only averaged 11 minutes per game last season. Did you have any concerns about how much playing time you would get?

Umm, not really because I came in pretty prepared, so like, I worked really hard. So, I knew I was going to get way more game time, and my coach reassured me of that as well. I was kind of injured in spring season, I rolled my ankle a few times so that was a setback. But when I was back here, I played for Sutherland and I was playing full game time there, played a few 90-minute games before I went back to America, and that helped me a lot.

You played more minutes in the first game of this season than you had in any game last season. How much confidence did that give you for the rest of the season? 

Yeah, it did, for sure. As I said, I started off really well in the pre-season, so that helped me. 

You scored your first college goal this season – a cracker against Florida International.

*laughs* About time! 

Take us through that goal.

Well, one of the defenders on my team, she played a through ball over, I saw her put her hand up so I ran onto it and then I had it on my right foot, I quickly put it on my left and shot into the top right-hand corner…it was pretty good. 

What did it mean to finally get your first college goal?

It was awesome, because my mum was there as well. So having my mum watch me, and my best friends, it was awesome. 

You earned your first start in two years against West Virginia. When did you find out you’d be starting? 

The day before, actually. It was pretty intense, it was scary because West Virginia are one of the top teams, well they were, they made the final two years ago. It was honestly an unreal feeling. 

How did they tell you? Was it one-on-one or did you just get a team list and you were on it? 

Yeah, I got told one-on-one on the morning of the game. My coach sent me a message, saying this is your chance to prove yourself and make a difference, which was really nice.

CM: How did you react?

Oh, I was pumped, for sure. It pumped me up.

What do you see as your role in the team?

As my coach says, I feel like I’m a game-changer, if that makes sense. An impact player. I mean, I want to be starting, but I have to work hard for that to happen.

You played 100 minutes against Virginia in the NCAA Tournament, and with seven seniors in this season’s team, do you feel that next season is your big chance?

Yeah, I’d say that is my big chance, because we’re losing a lot of players. So, I just have to be better and work harder to get a spot, because nobody’s spot is secured.

CM: The team reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament and took Virginia to penalties. Is there a sense that the team could maybe have gone further? You would have played Baylor in the next round, a team you took to overtime in the Big 12 Tournament.

100%. There’s no way Baylor would have beaten us three times. The second time, honestly, they were probably lucky to get the win; we went into extra time with them.

CM: Does that result against Virginia give you more drive to push on for next season?

Oh, 100%. We’re still a fresh program that’s building up; Virginia’s been there a long time – they’ve had so many NCAA Tournament appearances and everything. We’re just going year-by-year, hoping to get better.

CM: You missed a penalty in the shootout in that game…

Yep. Yeah, I did.

CM: Talk us through walking up to the spot…

I honestly was off from the first second. I was so tired. I hadn’t played 100 minutes in such a long time. I was walking up to the spot and then in the corner of my eye I saw all the Baylor girls – because they were playing after us – walk up to the back of the goal to watch me take my penalty, and then I was off from that second. Then I went to take the penalty, the keeper dove my way, I tried to miss her, and then it just went out wide.

CM: A bit like Mark Viduka against Uruguay in 2005?

*laughs* Yeah, pretty much; even the best miss sometimes!

CM: You won Most Improved Player for Texas Tech, but you weren’t even at the ceremony. How did you find out that you’d won? 

So, my teammates were telling me, most of them were saying that they’d voted for me. I pretty much found out when one of my teammates Facetimed me and told me. I was like, ‘Oh cool, thanks!’

CM: What are you doing to prepare for the coming season?

Working very hard! Training every day, doing the right things, trying to eat healthy, all the good stuff, you know? 

Will you be playing in Australia during your break?

In May, I will be. I’ll be playing (NPLNSW) for Sydney Olympic, hopefully getting some game time there, and preparing myself for the upcoming season.

CM: You played a little bit for Sydney Uni after your freshman year, and a bit more for Sutherland after last season. What difference did you notice coming back to America having gotten more game time playing for Sutherland?

I just felt like I improved as a player, I got more touches on the ball, it helped me with everything. My fitness is the best it’s been since I got to college.

CM: Do you feel like you get a head-start over players who don’t play in the off-season?

So, there’s a lot of girls who stay in America during summer, stay on campus and train with the coaches, but I feel it’s not much of an advantage compared to playing here. They don’t get many touches on the ball, and match fitness is a big thing.

CM: You’re coming up to your senior season. Have you thought about where you want to play after college? 

Honestly, I want to play in Europe somewhere, that’d be really cool.

CM: Do you have a European passport? 

I can get one. I need to go and apply for it!

CM: Is there any particular country you’d like to go to? 

Probably Sweden. Sweden looks pretty cool. There’s two girls that are Texas Tech alumni that played in Sweden that told me about it and they said it’s pretty cool.

CM: You’ve had three years’ experience in college. What advice would you give to young players thinking about college?

I feel like they should take the opportunity, because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. You get to play soccer, study as well, get a good degree at the end of it. It’s honestly such a good experience overall.

CM: A lot of players say that if they play in the W-League or NPL, that’s always going to be there, they can always come back and try that. But college, you’ve only got those four or five years to have the opportunity to play. Is that something you agree with? 

100%. It’s probably the best decision I’ve ever made. I was so iffy about leaving my family and my parents, but I didn’t want to have a regret, you know? If I went there, and I didn’t like it, I could just come back. Then at least I’d tried it.

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