Melissa Toulouse Feature
Nov. 8, 2007
AMHERST, Mass. - In a game that idolizes goal scorers and on a team with plenty of them, Melissa Toulouse of the University of Massachusetts women's soccer team is living proof that grit wins as many games as goals.
The UMass junior rarely shows up in a box score, but exhibits the intangibles needed to be a successful and durable defender.
She started just twice in her freshman campaign, but played in 14 contests. Toulouse made her minutes count by earning a starting position sophomore year and has started every game she has played in for the past two seasons.
"I put in my time as a freshman," Toulouse said. I played some minutes but basically it was a learning experience and I just absorbed all that I could."
This season, she has started and played in 10 of 11 games for the Minutewomen (7-3-1, 2-3 Atlantic 10). The match she missed was due to a concussion suffered against Duquesne on Sep. 30.
"I got a concussion late in the first half," she said. "It was on a free kick and the ball nailed me in the head pretty good, but that comes with being a defender. You give hits and you take them."
The Minutewomen could not overcome her loss and went on to lose, 3-2 to the Dukes and 2-0 in a game at Dayton the following week. Two of the Minutewomen's three losses this season came with Toulouse sidelined.
"We don't really have too much depth on defense," Toulouse said. "When you're in that situation a lot of times you have to play a little bit banged up for the good of the team."
"Those girls are doing great out there," Toulouse said. "I help them out when I can but they are really holding their own. They're top notch."
The Arlington, Va. native can relate to playing far from home and offers words of encouragement to younger players.
"I try to do what people did for me when I was younger," she said. "Sometimes it can be rough coming into college for the first time. If you're far from home and your family it can be tough."
In a world where coaches constantly scream and even curse at their players, the junior defender feels that a more positive approach works best when teaching underclassmen.
"I'm a believer in positive reinforcement," she said. "I don't think yelling at anyone is going to help them feel more comfortable, or help them be a better player."
Tenacity, dependability, and leadership aren't all that Toulouse brings to the table. She also has a unique flamboyance to her game likely adopted from her Brazilian background.
"She's very technical and has Brazilian type skills," UMass women's head soccer coach Jim Rudy said. "Her flair comes from her Mom's background. She's very deceptive."
Toulouse's Mom, Dalva, is Brazilian and loves the game. However, it was her Father, Paul, who grew up in Wilbraham, Massachusetts who introduced Melissa to soccer.
"My mom loves the game but she still doesn't know that much about it," Toulouse said with a smile. "She wouldn't be a good coach."
Toulouse also partook in ballet and gymnastics as a child which undoubtedly helped her foot work as a soccer player.
She shares duel citizenship in the United States and Brazil, and often returns to her Mother's native country to visit family as well as play soccer.
"We visit Brazil a lot," Toulouse said. "Most females down there don't play soccer so when I go out and fool around with my family and friends it always draws a crowd of people to watch us girls play."
She beams with pride speaking about the Brazilian national team's second place finish in the 2007 FIFA Women's World Cup. Her favorite player on the team is da Silva Marta, who scored seven goals in World Cup play.
So the question has to be asked, having duel citizenship, would Toulouse play for the United States or Brazilian national team?
"I love how Brazilians play the game with such flair," she said. "We have an immense amount of national pride and love of the game. If I had to choose I'd pick Brazil."
Toulouse is a Journalism and English major. She enjoys opinion writing as well as anything to do with politics, style and women's health. In fact, this past summer she interned at WTOP, a Washington, DC radio station.
As far as soccer is concerned, Toulouse urges UMass students to get behind the team as they attempt to qualify for the Atlantic 10 tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina.
"We play the game at a high level," Toulouse said. "The game is fast and fun and there's always a lot going on. I hope that more people come out to watch us play and support us as we try to make the tournament."