Sophomore goalkeeper Mario Sequeira started making his mark at VCU last year — picking up four Atlantic 10 honors, collecting 53 saves and eight shutouts and earning the second best goal-against average in the A-10 at 0.96.
Last year, Sequeira was named to the A-10 All-Rookie Team and dubbed Defensive Player of the Week twice and Rookie of the Week once. With his first year under his cleats, Sequeira has started 10 of 11 games this season and was recently featured on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays for a penalty save against the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The print journalism major hopes to be remembered not as a good player, but as a good person.
What made you want to get into playing soccer?
I was around six years old and I saw my dad playing goalie for his job’s team. They would play what they called Sunday league which is informal soccer games between friends. I would go every Sunday to just watch him. I got intrigued that he’s a really huge fan of soccer. I started playing around seven years old.
Did you always play as a keeper?
Yeah. I always felt that my dad was a goalkeeper so I just tried to give it a try and I didn’t do good in the other positions.
How was your experience playing for Costa Rica’s U-20 national team?
It was amazing in different areas, I think I learned a lot. I played the qualifiers for the World Cup, but I didn’t get to play the World Cup. I had ups and downs during the qualifiers. After that I just took the lows, and my confidence came down by a lot. A couple months prior to the World Cup, I was super uncertain of what to do, and I wasn’t playing at my best. I learned a lot from it, but it was tough at some moments, but definitely one of the best feelings in my life.
What are the differences between that and playing at VCU like?
I think the type of play is different. It would be hard for you to understand that [in the] U.S. [there are] so much more facilities and advantages than a national team. In Costa Rica, we’re still struggling with some stuff. We’re still trying to find our best environment. And here, we just have everything. Right? We have a great training center with great training personnel. And then great training, just in general, practice and good teammates. I think the environment is nice too. It’s different. It’s has more advantages for the player. And then the type of play is just different too — it’s faster here, it’s more intense, I would say. In Costa Rica, I learned a lot about tactics, which is pretty much how everyone plays. So I think it combines the best of both worlds.
With last year being your first year, were there things you noticed you had to work on for this season?
Definitely, definitely. One of my weaknesses is the air game. Trying to fight for the ball in the air and stuff. So I knew I had to work on that. Probably hit the gym a little bit, get bigger muscle in order to fight and challenge those goals. I think I did a pretty good job. I still have to work on that, but I think we made an improvement in that area.
Last season, you recorded 53 saves and right now you’re almost halfway there. Are you hoping to beat that, or is it even in your head?
It’s not really in my head. I feel like sometimes my parents are the ones trying to see the stats and they tell me like, “Oh, you’re halfway there.” And you’re still only probably like eight or 10 games, you’ll probably get better than last season. I think my main goal as the team’s goalkeeper is to record a clean sheet. Other teams are gonna take shots. If we take a clean sheet, I think I’m not gonna make enough saves to improve the stats. But usually, that’s not something that’s on the top of my head.
Last season, you earned four A-10 honors and so far you’ve earned one this year. How does it feel to be recognized from VCU and through the conference?
It’s really nice, I think sometimes you don’t expect those things to happen. It feels like you’re doing things the right way. It gives you more responsibility, too, because after earning an award, you can’t come the next day and do worse than you were doing before. It brings happiness of being rewarded but also the challenge of getting better and not going back to the worst scenario.
The rest of the season is against conference opponents. Do you think it’s going be tougher, or are you just going to play as usual?
Usually, conference games are a little bit tougher, I think. Some of the teams have a really tough style of play. They challenge you for the ball, they usually have more narrow fields or shorter fields. So that can challenge us, we are a team that likes to have the ball. Sometimes we can’t do that, right? We have to challenge the balls in the air and try to get second balls and try to build up from there. So it’s different from non-conference games because usually our coach and our schedule is meant [for us] to play against teams that are similar to us, so we get to play a little bit better soccer. But the mentality is the same — winning every game, trying to shut out every game and do better.
How does it feel to be part of a team that’s been here for 40 years?
It’s actually really nice. I got to meet some of the alumni that played for the team. You feel that responsibility, they set a really high standard before. So coming here and seeing the legacy they left behind is tough, because you want to achieve as much as they did, or even better to improve the program itself and leave your own legacy.
You were featured on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays for your save against UMass. How does it feel to see you were on SportsCenter?
It’s funny, because to be honest, I wasn’t expecting that at all. It’s nice, it’s a nice feeling. But same as the awards that I mentioned before, it gives you the responsibility of coming the next day and doing better. The team itself and other players from other sports here at VCU or other people here, they look up for you to do better every game. They expect good stuff from you, so you cannot go back and do worse. So it’s challenging, but definitely an amazing recognition and it makes me really proud, to be honest, to be in something like that.
What made you decide to come play for VCU?
I got to meet Coach Gifford. He went to Costa Rica to recruit me and I just fell in love with the program. The coaching staff was just amazing, they were treating me really well. Even though I came here without knowing [the] campus, or knowing the environment, as soon as I came, I loved the place. Once I chose VCU, I just fell in love with the whole program and I’m really happy that I’m here.
What is your favorite thing to do on campus?
That’s a tough one. I like a lot of things. I like going to the gym and to the pool, that’s nice. I like just walking around or using Bird scooters. I go for walks with my girlfriend usually, and that’s nice. VCU just opened Monroe Park. It’s really nice to take a walk and see people and get to meet new people too.
If there is anything you would want VCU or fans to know about you, what would it be?
To be honest, I don’t want to remembered as a good player, I would like to be remembered as a good person, someone that people could reach out to in order to get advice or just a good moment with. I know I’m not the funniest guy, but I know I can listen to people and I know I can just keep them company in tough moments. I’d like to be remembered as the guy that was always there for everyone — [someone] that was a good person and a good fit for the program and the university itself.