Borja Angoitia arrived at Quinnipiac University in August of 2011. The events preceding the goalkeeper’s freshman year reside in men’s soccer head coach Eric Da Costa’s head all too well. Da Costa had heavily recruited the goalkeeper, native of Bilbao, Spain.
In fact, Angoitia was set to take off on a plane trip to the United States and join the Bobcats roster for the 2011 season.
An unexpected twist, however, almost changed that plan entirely.
In the moments before Angoitia was set to head for his new home, an issue arose. There was a problem clearing the young goalkeeper’s eligibility in customs.
“I absolutely remember [the situation],” Da Costa said. “There was some trouble with the eligibility center, they were chasing down some documents because he was in an exchange program a year prior in Alaska.”
The situation even escalated to almost drastic measures.
“It was a little bit of a nightmare,” Da Costa said. “There was even a point where he’s on the plane, and we were trying to get ahold of him to say, ‘Listen, don’t leave Spain yet. We aren’t sure we can clear you.’”
Fortunately for both parties, the situation was cleared up once Angoitia arrived, and the 6-foot-2 goalkeeper was allowed to begin his freshman year at Quinnipiac.
“As a player you always like it when someone shows interest in you and truly wants you,” Angoitia said. “Coach Da Costa was very interested, so it wasn’t a hard decision for me to come here. It all worked out, and that’s important.”
Since that very moment, Angoitia immediately began to show people just how much talent he had. Both his coaches and teammates point to Angoitia’s work ethic and say that’s the reason how he’s become so successful.
“He came here as a freshman with two goalkeepers ahead of him,” Da Costa said. “He definitely showed the determination to improve; he had to earn his spot.”
In the first week of the 2011 season, Da Costa and his coaching staff knew that Angoitia was ready to be the team’s starter in between the crossbars.
“After a couple of games, I knew he was the right guy,” Da Costa said.
Senior defenseman Brandon Strain-Goode now enters his third season as Angoitia’s teammate, and knows exactly why the goalkeeper has ascended to such a big role so quickly.
“He’s focused, and he’s always looking for ways to improve,” Strain-Goode said. “That’s important, and speaks a lot about what kind of person he is.”
Angoitia’s name quickly became known around the Northeast Conference. He posted a 6-8 record during his freshman season, but his 1.73 goals-against average gave him the confidence he needed heading into the next three years of his career.
“It’s just a lot about getting into a rhythm,” Angoitia said. “Once you stop conceding goals, it allows the guys in front of you to get into a rhythm of their own. During that season I started to find that rhythm a bit.”
Almost as quickly as he ascended to the starting role during his initial season at Quinnipiac, Angoitia broke out.
His success on the field as a sophomore spoke for itself, as he posted a 1.12 goals-against average with five shutouts, saved 78.8 percent of the shots that went his way, and helped lead his team to an NEC Regular Season Championship.
Still, the goalkeeper from Spain continues to remain humble.
“[My success] just comes from a lot of hard work, basically, and learning from my mistakes,” Angoitia said. “I have made my share of mistakes, but concentrating on correcting them is always key.”
Both his coach and Strain-Goode noticed Angoitia’s performance last season, and even think the goalkeeper ascended into an important leadership role on the roster.
“I’ve always felt that you don’t have to have a captain’s armband to be a leader on the field,” Strain-Goode said. “Borja has really taken that advice. He’s really stepped up lately and become a leader for the incoming freshmen. It’s nice to see.”
So how exactly does the Bobcats goalkeeper lead? By keeping calm and remembering to always do one thing.
“You need to keep a smile on your face,” Angoitia said. “Even when things go wrong, you have to lead them into better times. They are going to look back at you when the other team scores, and it is important that they see you smiling.”
Some, however, think there is one other aspect of Angoitia that makes him the person he is today: his humor.
The ninth-year coach can pinpoint an exact situation in which Angoitia’s humor is evident.
“He’s a little quirky,” Da Costa said with a grin on his face. “Sometimes he lightens the mood and punts a ball half way across the field for no reason. It’s just part of who he is.”
All in all, his thick accent, jokes and competitiveness are all just a part of the man behind Angoitia.
“When I can understand him he’s a comedy act really,” Strain-Goode said of Angoitia’s accent as he laughed, looking off into the distance at his teammate.
His teammates aren’t the only ones who notice the fun Angoitia likes to have.
“He’s just character,” Da Costa joked. “I don’t know if his head is on straight sometimes, but I’m glad he’s on my roster.”
Angoitia credits his past experiences as a pivotal part of becoming the leader he is today.
“When I came here for the first time I knew nothing about the school,” Angoitia said. “I had seen pictures and everything, but adapting to a new place can be challenging at times. My teammates helped me out a lot in that regard.”
Angoitia remembers those days vividly, and tries to do everything he can to make his newest teammates more comfortable in their early months at Quinnipiac.
“Now being a junior, I am an upperclassman, so it is much different,” he said. “I can see myself as the new kid two years back, so I try and help them out as much as possible.”
The third-year goalkeeper has more than just his new teammates on his mind, though. Quinnipiac entered the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference this year, and the switch has him as excited as he has ever been.
“We are all excited because it is a better league for us,” Angoitia said as his eyes lit up. “Moving to the MAAC is a good step forward. We just need to keep doing the same things we did last year, then win a few more games near the end.”
His teammates are excited, as well, and one in particular feels good about the transition because of his reliable keeper.
“When he is in net you feel good,” Strain-Goode said. “Sometimes he makes saves that just make you say ‘wow.’ It’s a good conference, but if he plays well there is no doubt we will have a good season.”
After Angoitia’s play last season, the goalkeeper was named to the 2013 Preseason All-MAAC Team. The honor, as his coach thinks, is well deserved and bodes well for the team as the Bobcats head into a new era.
“He deserved every bit of the recognition,” Da Costa said. “[Being a goalkeeper] is a major part of our game because it is such a unique position, and he plays it extremely well. When you have a guy who can keep you in games like he does, it makes you fairly confident as a coach.”