Finnish forward Roosa Arvas ends Pitt career on top

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Finnish forward Roosa Arvas ends Pitt career on top

Roosa Arvas winds up for a kick.  Heather Tennant | Staff Photographer

Roosa Arvas winds up for a kick. Heather Tennant | Staff Photographer

Roosa Arvas winds up for a kick. Heather Tennant | Staff Photographer

Roosa Arvas winds up for a kick. Heather Tennant | Staff Photographer

By Jeff Carpenter / Staff Writer

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It took Roosa Arvas four sports, two countries and 4,250 miles to find her place in the history books as Pitt women’s soccer’s all-time points leader.

Growing up in Kuopio, Finland, Arvas played ice hockey, volleyball and floorball, but soccer captivated her from an early age.

Arvas played alongside boys to start her career in youth soccer to add competition and adversity, something she said accelerated the development of her game.

“Boys are faster, so I had to be faster, be more technical and good with the ball,” Arvas said.

When Arvas stepped onto Pitt’s campus as a new face in 2012 — a student at a school in a unknown city in an unfamiliar country — she was just ready to play soccer.

Four years later, the forward stood as the lone honoree on Pitt’s women’s soccer senior night, one that saw the Panthers conclude their most successful season in program history despite a 6-0 loss to the No. 1 University of Virginia Cavaliers that night.

Arvas made more than a modest contribution to that success.

The psychology major’s name marks Pitt’s record books as the all-time leader in points with 56 and assists with 22. Her assist in a 2-0 win over North Carolina State University on Sept. 20, propelled her past Ashley Cuba for most points in program history, which Cuba set on Oct. 9, 2011. Arvas also finished her career three goals shy of Cuba’s program-record 21.

Arvas had a strong year for the Panthers (10-7-1, 4-6-0 ACC), sitting third on the team in points with 14, and she said the fans helped her and the team finish strong.

Arvas said she’s happy with the records, but her growth during that time stands out more.

“[The records] are huge accomplishments,” Arvas said. “But more importantly, [I’m proud of] the lessons I’ve learned here and the person I’ve become.”

Despite all the individual accolades that her career has to showcase, Arvas is a team-first individual. Because of that mentality, her coach and teammates said they appreciate what the reserved Finn has brought to the program over the years.

“She pushes me to do everything at a faster pace. Even if something is good, she encourages me to do it even better,” said freshman forward Jarena Harmon, who led the team in goals this season with seven.

Arvas is the team’s primary free kick and penalty kick taker and, according to her teammates, rightfully so.

“You want Roosa on the ball,” Harmon said.

That trust from her teammates comes from Arvas’ work in making the adjustment from playing soccer in Finland to playing in the United States.

While she continued to hone her skills in Finland before making the trek to Pittsburgh, she was in for a big surprise, as American soccer features significantly different styles and speeds.

“The game here is a lot more physical and faster,” she said.

Adjusting to the game wasn’t the only challenge. Arvas knew English, but wasn’t entirely comfortable relying on it.

“I understand it, but I was poor at speaking it. We learned it [in Finland], but I didn’t want to,” Arvas said.

Moving to the United States was a tough change for Arvas to make, both athletically and culturally, and that’s where Pitt head coach Greg Miller stepped in.

“He helped me a lot. I didn’t have confidence when I first came here,” Arvas said. “He helped me to get over my mistakes and to be mentally more tough. You have to think faster and be tougher, think you are stronger than you are.”

Miller said Arvas’ personality and knowledge of the game made the transition easier for both of them.

“It’s been really easy [coaching her]. She understands the game and wants to get better, and any information you give her she is willing to try to put into her game,” Miller said. “When she first came here, she really struggled with the speed and the physical end of the game, and that took some time to develop. Through last year and all of this year she’s been a lot better with both of those things.”

While she won’t get the chance to lead the team again as a Panther, she hopes to continue playing professionally back in Finland.

“If I have the chance, I will go for it,” Arvas said.

She said she would prefer to play for the club team in her hometown of Kuopio, and if she returns, she will meet a familiar face from Pitt in her native country. A captain from Pitt’s 2014 team, Jaclyn Poucel, is playing for NiceFutis in the women’s premier league in Finland.

Poucel spent three years playing alongside Arvas, and praised Arvas’ consistency.

“Roosa is a talented player and reads the game well. I loved playing with her because I always knew I could rely on her no matter what,” Poucel said. “When defending her, I always knew I would be challenged because she’s smart, and that pushed me to be smarter.”

Poucel said Arvas can succeed at the next level because of her ability to step on a field and bring the best out of her team.

“She’s a leader by example,” Poucel said. “There might be faster or more athletic forwards, but with Roosa, she’s the one you want in front of the net on a cross or a pass into the box.”

One of those plays in the box highlighted Arvas’ most memorable game from Pitt, but it wasn’t the NC State game, when she became the program’s all-time points leader.

Instead, she pointed to the 2-1 overtime victory over Wake Forest University four days later, a game Miller labeled as, “the biggest win since I’ve been here.”

She collected an assist in the Sept. 24, contest, which propelled her into the program lead for assists.

To Harmon, it’s no surprise that Arvas’ favorite memory comes from an assist. It’s in her nature.

“She’s always willing to help me with anything.” Harmon said. “And the ball she’s able to set from anywhere on the field distinguishes her.”

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