Just past the halfway point of the 2011 regular season, the UC San Diego Women's Soccer team sports an 8-0-2 record, holds a commanding lead in the CCAA South Division and is ranked second in the latest Division II national poll. One of the key figures on this year's roster is junior sweeper Ellen Wilson, a three-year starter for the Tritons. The 5-9 Santa Ana, CA native presides over a defense that has allowed just three goals in 10 games. "The rest of the team has so much faith in Ellen," says Head Coach Brian McManus. "She has such poise and balance and knowing she's back there, the team's play reflects that calmness. There's never any panic." Before heading out for her team's final regular season road trip of the year, Wilson took time to talk about her position, her career to date and what might lie in the future.
Q-You've started every game of your collegiate career at UCSD. What got you into the starting lineup as a freshman and what's kept you there?
WILSON-I was extremely lucky to have the opportunity to play and start as a freshman. Luckily, the sweeper position was available for me and I was able to step right into the mix. Since then, I've just taken it one game at a time and tried to improve. I think that is why I have been able to maintain my spot in the lineup.
Q-The sweeper might be regarded as "the quarterback of the defense" in soccer. What skill set is required to be successful at your position?
WILSON-I guess I'd be considered the quarterback in the sense that I have the most vision on the field. Being the last defender, my job is to direct the defense and help generate an attack, so giving direction to my teammates is a lot of what I do.
Q-Defense is obviously a team endeavor. What talents do you think stand out with each of your teammates on the backline?
WILSON-This will be the third year Sara (Spaventa), Hayley (Johnson), goalkeeper Kristin (Armstrong), and I have played together in the back. By now, we are almost always on the same page. We know Sara rarely ever gets beaten, Hayley is usually an outlet to start an attack, and Kristin is just a downright beast in goal.
Q-What skills are more important at your position-physical or mental?
WILSON-I would say mental. Compared to all the other positions, mine probably requires the least amount of running. I always have to be mentally checked into the game in order to organize the defense and help us generate an attack.
Q-Despite typically being stationed as far away from the goal as any field player on your team, you have five career goals. How does that happen?
WILSON-The only time I'm really in a position to score is when I am sent up for corner kicks. That is how I got all five of my goals.
Q-What's more gratifying, scoring a goal or stopping an opponent from scoring?
WILSON-Although it's an amazing feeling to score a goal, I'd have to say stopping an opponent from scoring is actually more gratifying for me. For some reason I find it really fun frustrating the other team's offense by not letting them score...must be a defender thing.
Q-What kind of chemistry does there need to be between the defenders and the keeper? How much communication is there (both ways) during a typical game?
WILSON-Trust is key. We know that our keepers are reliable, so we have no trouble passing the ball back to them or shielding a ball through for them to pick up. Nine times out of ten, you listen to what the keeper says to do unless you have the opportunity to clear the ball yourself.
Q-Last year's team made it all the way to the NCAA Division II Championship game. What do you remember most from that post-season run?
WILSON-Our first weekend of playoffs was the most memorable for me. We had just come off losing the CCAA tournament for the second year in a row, so we were anxious to redeem ourselves. The next thing you know, we were flying to Hawaii in the middle of November and staying in a five-star hotel. There, I scored two game-winning goals, we beat the CCAA champs (San Francisco State) and BYU Hawaii, and began our journey to the championship game in Kentucky.
Q-What effect do you feel the results of the 2010 post-season had on the preparation and approach this year's team has had?
WILSON-I think what sums it up most for our team is that we are never satisfied. My freshman year we were knocked out in the West Regional finals. We came out with a vengeance last year and made it to the NCAA Championship game. Not winning that game made us want it that much more this year. We are always striving to improve and exceed what we've done.
Q-What one factor do you think has been most responsible for the consistent success of the Triton Women's Soccer team during your time at UCSD?
WILSON-I think it is our mentality of taking each game one at a time. It doesn't matter what result we had in our last game or who we play next, we are only concerned with the opponent at hand.
Q-Where do you feel you improved the most between your first and second years at UCSD? Between your second and third years?
WILSON-Between my first and second year, I think I settled into my position more and gained a sense of entitlement to be there. From my second year to this year, I've taken on more of a leadership role and have had to focus on vocally directing my teammates.
Q-What's the best advice you've received from Head Coach Brian McManus? What about your coach surprised you the most after you got to UCSD?
WILSON-I think the best advice he has given us is to take advantage of the education we are getting here at UCSD. What surprised me most about Brian was finding out that he has been in America for over 20 years, yet he still has the thickest Scottish accent.
Q-Both of your parents were collegiate athletes at Loyola Marymount. What factors led to you attending UCSD to play soccer?
WILSON-Although I did get in to LMU, I wanted the opportunity to continue my soccer career in college. UCSD offered great academics, athletics, and location. That's why I chose Division II.
Q-You list your favorite movie as "The Sandlot." What do you like about it? Who is your favorite character in the movie?
WILSON-"The Sandlot" is just one of those movies that reminds me of my childhood-- playing sports, being part of a team, and bonding with friends. My favorite character would have to be Squints, although I did have a crush on Benny growing up.
Q-You're a communications major at Sixth College. What particular area, if any, are you focusing on? What do you hope to use it for after you graduate?
WILSON-I'm most interested in the marketing aspect of communication. I'm hoping I can pursue a career in advertising or PR, ideally with a sports team.
Q-What is your "dream" scenario between now and the end of the season for the UCSD Women's Soccer team?WILSON-Best-case scenario, we would continue our winning streak, win the CCAA Championship, host NCAA Regionals, and find ourselves right back at the National Championship game in Florida the first week in December.
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