As the ninth-ranked UC San Diego women's soccer team begins NCAA Division II post-season play this week, one of its most formidable offensive weapons is junior forward Sarah McTigue. The Bellflower, CA native is second on the squad in scoring with eight goals and two assists, giving her 19 goals and 10 assists in her career as a Triton. A management science major at Muir College, McTigue is also one of UCSD's co-captains and has clearly earned the trust and respect of her head coach, Brian McManus. "Sarah's energy, skills and work rate are obvious and she puts her body on the line every time," says McManus. "But equally important is the leadership she provides, on and off the park." On the eve of the 2010 playoffs, McTigue took time to share thoughts on her game, her team and her sport.
Q: You're not the biggest or fastest player on the pitch; what makes you a "goal scorer?"
McTIGUE: Well, it's definitely a team effort. I just try to work hard, but it takes everyone on the field to create a goal-scoring opportunity, and I'm fortunate enough to get the credit for the end result.
Q: Is it a role that you've always played or something that you've developed at UCSD?
McTIGUE: Being a goal scorer is not a role I've always filled. On my club team, our attacking center mid was definitely who we looked to for goals. Then my freshman year at UCSD, Natasha Belak-Berger was our goal scorer and I played a bigger role in assisting. When she left, we needed someone to take over the role. And what is so great about our team is that it was not just one person that stepped up. Our whole offense stepped up and started contributing goals.
Q: You and senior Annette Ilg are the two leading scorers on this year's team. What are the differences in your styles and does having her on the field create more opportunities for you?
McTIGUE: Having Annette on the field definitely helps create chances. We have two different styles of play, which creates different types of opportunities. Annette is tenacious and fearless. Her strength lies in her ability to not get pushed off the ball as well as in her ability to recover the ball when we lose possession, and she is the kind of player that will find a way to get that ball in the back of the net in any situation. As for myself, I like to turn people and take people on. I create more opportunities by getting around the corner and either finding a shot for myself or getting a cross off for someone else to score.
Q: Do you have a favorite among the 19 goals you've scored at UCSD? What differentiates one from another?
McTIGUE: By far, my favorite goal here at UCSD was the tying goal against CSU Dominguez Hills in the West Regional Final last year. We had gone down 2-0 early in the second half, but about halfway through the second half Lisa (Bradley) scored a goal to bring it to 2-1. Not long after that Annie (Wethe) played a ball up and over their defense and I ran through it and scored to tie the game. That goal meant a lot to me because of the game that I scored it in. Dominguez Hills is our biggest rival, and we had been working hard and playing so well that whole game. It just felt so good to be able to contribute a goal in a game like that.
Q: Talk about how you got started playing soccer and over the years what has been your favorite aspect of the sport.
McTIGUE: I started playing soccer when I was five. It was just AYSO and I got into it because my neighbors across the street were doing it. I had a lot of fun with it, and as I got older and better, I started playing club and getting more serious about playing soccer. It was pretty much the only sport I played growing up, and I wouldn't have had it any other way.
I played softball for two years when I was 10 and 11, but I didn't really enjoy it and after that I just stuck with soccer. What I like so much about soccer is the athleticism that it requires and the team aspect of the sport. Every single person on the team is important to the game, everyone has a role, and everyone has a shared set of goals that we are all working towards.
Q: This current version of UCSD women's soccer seems to be an exceptionally tight-knit unit. Can you talk about the bond among the team and how important it can be to a team's success?
McTIGUE: Last year our team was made up primarily of freshmen and sophomores, so our team got really close. Luckily that was able to carry over to this year as we incorporated nine new people. We all get along really well and spend a lot of time together both in an out of soccer. That closeness is very important to our team's success because everyone likes each other and works hard for one another. That allows for great chemistry on the field, which obviously transfers into success.
Q: How does your coach, Brian McManus, differ from other coaches you've played under? What do you consider his strengths and what is the most significant thing he brings to the team?
McTIGUE: Well, first off, he has an accent, so sometimes you have no idea what he's trying to tell you. Other than that, he hasn't been too different from other coaches that I've had. But he is by far the most experienced coach I've ever played for. This is a huge strength of his because when something isn't going right he knows how to fix it, and when something is going well he knows how to make sure it stays that way. His experience allows you to fully trust what he's saying and know that his decisions for the team are going to be the right ones. Somehow, he always seems to know exactly what it is our team needs, whether it is a serious practice, rest, or just a good laugh.
Q: What motivates you as a player? What do you do individually to prepare yourself for a particular game?
McTIGUE: Winning a national championship is a huge motivation, and that is the ultimate goal. My teammates are also a big motivation. Before every game, I have to nap and eat. I take an hour nap about two hours before we have to meet, and then eat when I wake up. After that, our locker room routine gets me pumped up for the game and ready to play.
Q: After a somewhat slow start in CCAA play this year, the team played exceptionally well down the stretch before losing in a shootout in the first round of last weekend's CCAA Championship. How bad does that loss sting?
McTIGUE: It definitely hurts. We had tied San Francisco earlier this year in league and we were definitely looking to prove ourselves this weekend.
Q: If, as expected, UCSD receives a bid into the NCAA Division II Tournament, how will last week's CCAA results effect its preparation and incentive?
McTIGUE: I think last week's result could actually be really good for us. We know we're a good team, but at this point every team we play is going to be a good team. If we come out and play our best I have confidence that we can beat anyone we face. This weekend taught us an important lesson though. You have to make sure you come out and play your best because if you don't you're not going to get the win. At this stage of the season you don't get a second chance, so you have to make the one you get count.
Q: The penalty kick shootout scenario is always a dicey proposition. Do you like seeing games decided in that fashion? Do you like being one of the shooters and what are you thinking when you're out there with just you, the ball and the opposing keeper?
McTIGUE: I'm not a fan of PKs, but I understand that it has to be done. I don't usually like being one of the kickers, but after working hard for the entire game sometimes I do want the chance to be able to put the game away. When I'm out there with just the keeper, I just try not to think too much or I'll freak myself out. I don't look at the keeper, I just place the ball down, step back, think about where I'm going to kick it, wait for the whistle, step up and take the shot.
Q: What role has your family played your soccer career?
McTIGUE: My family has always been extremely supportive of anything I do. My parents always let me decide what it was I wanted to pursue, and they said they would support me in anything. This was huge for me in soccer, because they were at every game and got me to every practice and they saw that it was important to me, so it was important to them. I think they're a big part of why I decided to play college soccer. I never felt pressured to continue playing soccer so it remained something I loved doing.
Q: What's your favorite thing to do besides playing soccer?
McTIGUE: I love snowboarding, and it works out perfectly because snowboarding season starts right when soccer season ends. I'm not the best at it, but I can get down the mountain without falling and I just love being up in the mountains. I'm already looking forward to our team trip to Tahoe.
Q: What are three things you'd like to do or accomplish before you graduate from UCSD?
McTIGUE: 1) Win an NCAA Championship 2) Go skydiving 3) Play soccer abroad with my team.
Previous Q & A Articles
Brandon Yee (Men's Soccer) October 11, 2010
Bryce Madsen (Men's Water Polo) September 23, 2010
Annette Ilg (Women's Soccer) September 9, 2010
Ricci Luyties (Women's Volleyball Head Coach) August 24, 2010
Kevin Messey (Head Athletics Trainer) July 7, 2010
Dan O'Brien (Baseball Head Coach) June 18, 2010
Merrill (Women's Track & Field) June 14, 2010
Vance Albitz (Baseball) May 11, 2010
Erik Elliott (Men's Tennis) May 3, 2010
Kelly Fogarty (Women's Track & Field) April 23, 2010
Liz LaPlante (Women's Tennis Head Coach) April 15, 2010
Kirby St. John (Baseball) March 24, 2010
Dan Perdew (Men's Swimming) February 28, 2010
Calvin Ross (Men's Volleyball) February 20, 2010
Nicole Saari (Softball) February 4, 2010
Brad Kreutzkamp (Women's Water Polo Head Coach) January 18, 2010
Tyler Acevedo (Men's Basketball) January 4, 2010
Dr. Cliff Kubiak (UCSD's Faculty Athletic Rep) December 18, 2009
Chelsea Carlisle (Women's Basketball) December 9, 2009
Carianne Cunningham (Women's Swimming) November 23, 2009
Elena Inouye (Cross Country) November 6, 2009
David Morton (Men's Water Polo) October 28, 2009
Juan Pablo Carillo (Men's Swimming) October 19, 2009
Sara Spaventa (Women's Soccer) October 10, 2009
Karen Reis (Women's Volleyball) October 2, 2009
Daniel Pavitt (Men's Soccer) September 23, 2009
Daniel Anderson (Cross Country) September 11, 2009
Peter Gresham (Men's Water Polo) September 2, 2009
Alexia Zatarain (Women's Soccer) August 24, 2009
Elaine Chen (Women's Volleyball) August 12, 2009
Jared Kukura (Men's Soccer) July 30, 2009
Dawn Lee (Former Women's Soccer Standout) July 8, 2009
Rob Mamula (Director of Athletic Performance) June 18, 2009
Garrett Imeson (Baseball) June 8, 2009
Leon Baham (Men's Track & Field) May 21, 2009
Kristyn Lesovsky (Softball) May 8, 2009
Kazumi Negishi (Men's Tennis) May 5, 2009
Laiah Blue (Women's Track & Field) April 16, 2009
Ryan Andre (Men's Crew) April 2, 2009
Josh Tanner (Baseball) March 24, 2009
Anju Shimura (Women's Swimming) March 7, 2009
Stephanie Bocian (Women's Water Polo) February 20, 2009
Lauren Chastain (Softball) February 5, 2009
A.J. Maulhardt (Men's Basketball) January 28, 2009
Annette Ilg (Women's Basketball) January 22, 2009
Steven Hardy (Men's Swimming) January 13, 2009
Frank Fritsch (Men's Volleyball) January 5, 2009