Senior Jessica Wi has been a fixture in the lineup for the UC San Diego Women's Soccer team since her freshman season in 2009 when she was named Co-Freshman of the Year in the CCAA. Since coming to La Jolla, Wi has racked up eight goals and 13 assists while the team has gone 55-12-11 and reached the NCAA Playoffs three times. When it comes to Wi, Head Coach Brian McManus is more impressed with some of the intangibles she brings to his side. "Jess is one of those players you don't really coach, you just let her go at people and do her thing," says McManus. "Her ability to create space and put crosses into the box is incredible. I think she does it better than any player in the conference. And for someone her size she's plays pretty physical-she's not scared to go in and challenge." With three weeks remaining in the regular season and the Tritons sitting on top of the CCAA South Division, the Oakland native, out of Skyline High School, took time to talk about her playing style, this year's UCSD squad and some of her off-the-field interests.
Q-At 5-foot-1, you're likely the shortest player on the field in most games. Do you ever hear about that from opposing players or find that they try to be overly physical in their approach to playing you?
WI-I don't think that they've overtly done or said anything to me, but the fact that I'm going to be one of the smallest players on the field is something I've needed to be aware of in order to be competitive in college soccer. In being recruited for college soccer, size was definitely an issue for some coaches who showed interest in me, so I've tried to do my best not to make it a factor in my playing and use other aspects of my game to make up for my size.
Q-Are there any advantages to being shorter?
WI-I think that sometimes players I go against underestimate me because of my size and that is sometimes an advantage because I can usually hold my own even against players who are a lot bigger than me. This sometimes surprises them, which lets me catch them a bit off guard.
Q-What's the scariest situation you've ever encountered on the soccer field?
WI-The scariest situation I've encountered is probably getting yelled at by Brian (McManus). Even walking up to take a penalty kick against Cal State Dominguez Hills freshman year wasn't quite as scary as that.
Q-As a midfielder who's expected to log a lot of yards running up and down the field, how would you describe your role on this year's UCSD team?
WI-I've never considered myself a very vocal or outspoken member of the team so I try to lead by example and work hard during practices and games. As a senior, I've gained a good amount of experience and I try to use that to help teammates in whatever way I can, whether it be on the field in training or off the field in class. I know that it's my job on the field to take players on and get around the defense to try to get crosses in or earn corner kicks.
Q-What do you feel is the most important characteristic needed to perform those tasks well?
WI-I think dedication to the team is really important. There are a lot of things that need to be done in order for the team to be successful and it all comes down to dedication. Dedication helps us push through tough games and keeps us together as a team.
Q-Since your freshman year, where do you feel you've improved the most?
WI-I think I've improved most in my understanding of the game. Thinking back, I feel like my mentality when playing as a freshman was mostly just the basics of passing to your own team and trying to score a goal. Now, I feel like when I come into a game, I know my role in my position and the roles of my teammates and I can use that to play smarter and more efficiently. It helps me play with more confidence too.
Q-You've been on four different UCSD Soccer teams. Assuming that each has its own unique qualities, how would you characterize the 2012 side?
WI-I've felt that the combination of the seniors this year and the girls who graduated last year made up the majority of the team the past three years. In that time, I thought that, since we were such a large core group that were close in age, we were recognized based on how long we had been playing. We were considered a young team at first and an experienced team more recently. This year, since we no longer have that same group, we've been playing with younger players in different positions. That brings a different dynamic to the game and puts girls into the game who have something new to add.
Q-If you could "borrow" skills from some of your teammates to make yourself better, what would some of those be?
WI-I would probably want Cassie's (Callahan) endurance so I could run for hours and not get tired and Ellen's (Wilson) composure to be calm and relaxed on the ball. Also, if height were considered a skill, I would want Gabi's (Hernandez) height.
Q-The team lost a number of key senior players to graduation in the spring of 2012. Where has the leadership come from this fall and as a senior do you feel more responsible to help fill that void?
WI-Our captains have been a huge help in the area of leadership and done a great job stepping up to lead the team. In addition to that, we've tried to find leadership all over the field and have every player contribute to leading the team in some way. There are some players who lead with their playing abilities and others who lead with their attitude and heart.
Q-What's one aspect of playing on the UCSD Women's Soccer team that you think would surprise most people?
WI-We're pretty weird as a group. We all like to have fun and be silly, but probably not in a way that most people would expect. A good instance of that happened when we were in Sonoma this past weekend. We started assigning everyone on the team animal noises, even the coaches (although they were a little more reluctant to join). So, if you ever see us making animal noises as a goal celebration, that's why.
Q-Do you feel you have a different personality on the field and off?
WI-I think everyone has a little bit of a different personality on the field than when they're not playing. For me, I don't think I'm as nice as I am off the field. I think it's because I'm in a competitive atmosphere, but I have also been told I'm very competitive outside of soccer.
Q-Both of your parents also attended UC San Diego. How much did that impact your decision to come to La Jolla and how did that process work?
WI-It's funny because the fact that both my parents had gone to UCSD was why I didn't want to go to UCSD at first. I was interested in some other schools and applied to UCSD because I had some interest there. That ended up being one of the best decisions I ever made. After contacting Brian and meeting the team and touring the campus, I realized that it was a really good fit for me and from that, decided to go to the school.
Q-What are some things you enjoy doing away from the soccer field? What's your most unusual hobby?
WI-I like finding and watching good TV shows that aren't super popular, preferably ones that have been out for a couple of seasons so I don't have to wait a long time for new episodes. Two that I enjoy are Arrested Development and The Wire.
My most unusual hobby would probably be eating ice cream. I'm not sure if this is considered a hobby, but people who really know me probably would consider this one of my hobbies. It would be really hard for me to pick a favorite flavor, I pretty much like them all, it just depends on what kind of mood I'm in. Brownie moose tracks and caramel are pretty good, though.
Q-You're a native of Oakland. How did you like the Oakland A's improbable late season run to the AL West title?
WI-It's always great when your home team does well. My brother is a big baseball and A's fan so he's really happy about it. I'm not the biggest baseball fan, but I like that I can see a team that I watched when I was younger be successful.
Q-You've listed Breakfast at Tiffany's, a 1960's classic, as one of your favorite movies which seems a somewhat atypical preference. What do you like about it and how did you come to see it for the first time?
WI-I saw it for the first time with some of my friends and I liked the fact it was sort of an atypical love story and a bit quirky at times. This may be a silly reason for it to be one of my favorite movies, but in most movies, there's a point in which the plot turns and it makes you cringe because you know it's going to lead to something bad, and Breakfast at Tiffany's didn't have that for me. I felt like it was a movie I could watch multiple times without wishing I could change something the characters were doing.
Q-What do you like the most about playing soccer at UC San Diego?
WI-It's hard to pick one thing. I really enjoy everything about playing. It's always been fun and challenging and really made my experience at UC San Diego amazing. I've loved being part of such an awesome team that I can have fun with but also focus and train hard with.
Q-You're rapidly approaching the final month of your collegiate career? What would make for a perfect ending-personally and as a team?
WI-Winning a national championship. That's always been a goal for our team and coming so close a couple years ago makes me and everyone else on the team hungry to get there again, but finish it off right.
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