The first line of defense for the 9th-ranked UC San Diego Women’s Soccer team is in the center midfield which 5-10 junior Heather Sugg patrols for Head Coach Brian McManus. After playing in 20 games off the bench as a freshman, Sugg moved into a starting role last fall. She began 2005 on the bench with a pulled quad muscle but has recovered and been a key part of the Tritons’ 11-1 start in which they have outscored opponents, 46-6. “Heather gives us great attacking ability in the middle of the park” says McManus. “She likes to tackle and gives us a presence and a bit of intimidation in the midfield. Her strength in the air is also an important aspect for us, particularly when it comes to set pieces.” A native of Lake Forest, CA out of El Toro High School, Sugg talked recently about the UCSD team and the season to date.
Q-You started the season on the sidelines. How difficult is it to watch from the bench when your team is playing?
SUGG-Of course it’s difficult when you can’t be out there. Everyone wants to play but there are still ways you can help your team—like giving directions or encouragement from the sidelines.
When something goes wrong on the field, I try to encourage my teammates. It’s always good to hear something positive from the bench. You try to keep everyone’s confidence up and not allow them to be effected by mistakes.
Q-What do you feel you contribute to the team when you’re on the field?
SUGG-Probably size. There aren’t too many soccer players who can beat my height. I’ve always been tall and I love playing the air, winning headers.
Q-The team has won 11 of its first 12 games. What has been the key to the great start?
SUGG-Attitudes. Everybody has come out with strong, positive attitudes. I think we have a little better chemistry than last year. We had so many new players then that it was more difficult to establish the type of chemistry you need while they were still learning the system and getting used to college.
Q-What areas can the team still stand to improve?
SUGG-Communicating on the field. Me especially. I tend to be the quiet one, but talking helps so much—in letting teammates know where you are, where opponents are on the field and just encouragement as well.
Q-How would you evaluate the CCAA thus far? What teams do you consider most dangerous in terms of the conference championship?
SUGG-As always, the conference is very strong. You have to be on your game with every team or you’ll come away with a loss. Dominguez Hills is always tough in our division, but Stanislaus and Chico State are the leading teams up north. They both have a very good cast of returning players and are very physical.
Q-Brian McManus has said that you are a bit of an intimidator in the midfield. Do you feel like you intimidate other players?
SUGG-I think Brian is intimidating. I’m just tall.
Q-What excites you the most when you’re playing soccer?
SUGG-A night game against a big rival. The lights and fans can make things pretty exciting. We have a great soccer environment at UCSD.
Q-Who would you say is the most exciting player on this year’s UCSD team and the most improved?
SUGG-As far as exciting, I’d have to say Allie Avina with her giant cannon free kicks. I swear she’s going to score from a goal kick on of these days. Caitlin Ryan is the most improved and I think she’s future star. She’s so composed on the field, much more than I am. I feel pressure but she seems like she always knows what she’s going to do before she gets the ball.
Q-How long have you played soccer? What other sports do you enjoy playing and watching?
SUGG-I’ve played since kindergarten. It’s actually the only organized sport I’ve really played. My parents got me into it, my teammates became my friends and I just stayed with my friends.
I think I could be pretty good at basketball and I love every sport. My favorites to watch are basketball, football and lacrosse.
Q-Did you have any sports figures that you looked up to when you were growing up?
SUGG-Joy Fawcett of the U.S. Women’s National Team. She was a defender and when I went to a soccer camp, she was one of my counselors. I always thought she was very tough.
Q-What is your major and what do you hope to do with it after graduation?
SUGG-Human biology. I’m interested in physical therapy and sports medicine. I think I’d like to work with athletes and help them recover from injuries.
Q-What role have your parents played in your athletic career?
SUGG-My parents are already in the stands cheering before my team even walks onto the field for warm-ups. They are always there for me. I don’t know how I would have made it this far without them.
Q-What has surprised you most about your coach, Brian McManus?
SUGG-He has a tattoo.
Q-What are some things you’d like to do before you turn 25?
SUGG-One is skydiving. I would also like to study in Australia.
Q-What did the team learn collectively last year that will help this year?
SUGG-You can’t take things for granted. You’ve got to expect the worst that can happen and go for the best.
Q-What will make the 2005 season a success in your eyes?
SUGG-The NCAA Final Four. We can do it.
PREVIOUS Q&A ARTICLES
Laura Watkins (Women's Volleyball) - September 28, 2005
Kevin Murray (Men's Soccer) - September 20, 2005
Carl Lostrom (Men's Cross Country) - September 13, 2005
Clark Petersen (Men's Water Polo) - September 6, 2005
Brianna Koche (Women's Volleyball) - August 30, 2005