Having accounted for 17 of the 28 goals scored by players returning to the 2008 UC San Diego women's soccer team, it’s easy to see why senior forward Natasha Belak-Berger figures prominently in the plans of Head Coach Brian McManus. The Thousand Oaks, CA native tied graduated senior Ali Lai for the team lead with seven goals in 2007 while winning first team All-CCAA and All-West Region honors. Listed at 5-foot-5, she plays much bigger. “Tash has a great instinct for goal scoring and has that little bit of feistiness,” says McManus. “She doesn’t mind mixing it up a little and hitting people. That’s a little unusual for a forward and makes her that much tougher to handle.” Belak-Berger took time out from training camp two-a-days to talk about her UCSD career and the coming season.Q: Does it seem like a short time since you were a freshman coming in for your first training camp and hoping to make the team?Belak-Berger:
It seems like barely any time has passed since I was a freshman and going through my first double days. Even though it is my fourth time at summer training, I am just as sore as I was the first summer.
Q: As one of the roster’s few upper classmen, what do you see as your role on this year’s team?Belak-Berger:
This year it will be very important for the upperclassmen to be leaders both on and off the field. As one of the five seniors on the team, I think it is my job to help pass on the traditions of the team to the freshmen and show them the integrity of the UCSD women’s soccer team.Q: What are your primary memories of last season? How does the conclusion of 2007 play into your preparation for 2008?Belak-Berger:
Last year was both a fun year and a hard year. We had a very large group of seniors and juniors, so we had a lot of experience and we all were determined to go farther than the year before. However, we also had a large number of injuries, which left our team stretched thin at the end of the season. The loss to Dominguez in NCAA Regionals was heartbreaking but I think it will motivate this year’s returners to work harder to get our revenge.Q: You have 17 career goals. The rest of the roster combined has just 11. Do you think you’ll be getting more attention from opposing defenses this season? How do you feel about that?Belak-Berger:
If other teams focus more attention on me this season, it won’t be for long. Although the other forwards will be younger this year, they are very capable of punishing defenses if they are left open.Q: What do you consider the most important trait for a goal scorer?Belak-Berger:
The most important trait a goal scorer has is the ability to keep your head in an intense situation. You must be able to keep calm and maintain your composure when going towards goal, even if defenders are chasing you from behind and the goalie is charging off her line. Q: What part of your game do you hope to improve the most this season?Belak-Berger:
As a senior, this year I will have to try and be a better leader on the field. Being vocal and leading by example will be a change for me from the past couple of years, since before I always had others to look up to. Hopefully I will be able to help motivate the others to play hard and put their entire heart into every game. Q: Do you consider UCSD a legitimate threat to reclaim the CCAA women’s soccer title this fall? Why?Belak-Berger:
I think UCSD will definitely be a force in the CCAA and hopefully we will regain the title this year. The new players on the team are extremely talented and will add a lot in terms of individual talent and overall team chemistry. Also, the returners are ready for the season and want to show the CCAA that even though we graduated a large class last year, we are still a great program and will continue our tradition of success.
Q: How would you handicap the U.S. Men’s and Women’s Soccer teams chances at the Olympic Games?Belak-Berger:
The U.S. women’s soccer team has been a dominant force for over a decade and although they lost Abby Wambach, a key player, I think they will do well this summer. The men’s team is very young because you can only bring 3 players who are 23 or older to the Games, so it will be interesting to see how far the younger players can take the USA team.
Q: Besides soccer, what other Olympic sports do you enjoy watching? Why?Belak-Berger:
My favorite Olympic sport to watch is gymnastics. I wish I could do all the aerobatic moves that those athletes can do with such ease. Also, I really like watching Michael Phelps. He looks pretty good in that Speedo.
Q: Outside of soccer, what are some of your interests?Belak-Berger:
In true San Diego form, going to the beach and either hanging with friends or trying to surf are my favorite activities, especially during the spring and summer. Also, I really enjoy crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and paint-by-numbers.
Q: Did you do anything interesting this summer?Belak-Berger:
I didn’t do anything really interesting but I traveled around Southern California visiting friends during the summer. Summer is the time I use to relax, kick back, and enjoy the sun.
Q: You’re a human biology major at UCSD. Do you plan to graduate this June? If so, what’s the next step?Belak-Berger:
I do plan to graduate this June which is really exciting! I’m going to take a year off to work and try to get some experience in the medical field and study for the MCAT. After that year I do plan on applying to medical school and trying to become a pediatrician.
Q: What are the best and worst things about pre-season training camp?Belak-Berger:
The best thing is the feeling that you are training at a high level and working as a team towards a great season. Also, you get to eat a lot of food...which is pretty awesome. The list of bad things about training camp...where to start. The worst things are probably the early mornings since we have to be at the fields before 7:00 a.m. and the overall pain and soreness your body experiences during double days.
Previous Q&A Articles
Jake LaVieux (Men's Cross Country) August 8, 2008
Dr. Penny Rue (Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs) July 30, 2008
Michelle Torres (Women's Volleyball) July 15, 2008
Jon Pascale (Men's Soccer Head Coach) July 1, 2008
Julie Ertel (Athletics) June 16, 2008
Clint Allard (Men's Basketball) June 9, 2008
Jen Myers (Women's Crew) May 27, 2008
Casey Ryan (Men's Track and Field and Men's Basketball) May 21, 2008
Keith Noe (Baseball) May 13, 2008
Liz LaPlante (Women's Tennis Head Coach) April 30, 2008
Sydney Gstettenbauer (Women's Water Polo) April 22, 2008
Sarah Hendy (Women's Track and Field) April 17, 2008
Eric Leserman (Men's Volleyball) April 9, 2008
Danielle Lukk (Softball) April 4, 2008
Chris Franco (Baseball) March 24, 2008
Dan Perdew (Swimming) March 18, 2008
Evan Hsiao (Swimming) March 9, 2008
Eric Rubens (Men's Tennis) February 27, 2008
Melissa Ward (Softball) February 20, 2008
Cameron Sprowles (Fencing) February 13, 2008
Kim Hockett (Women's Water Polo) February 6, 2008
Trevor Decker (Baseball) January 31, 2008
Jordan Lawley (Men's Basketball) January 23, 2008
Jason Spangler (Men's Volleyball) January 5, 2008
Andrew Skewes (Men's Diving) December 26, 2007
Alexis Gaskin (Women's Basketball) December 17, 2007
Aubrey Panis (Women's Swimming) December 2, 2007
Andrew Hatch (Men's Basketball) November 26, 2007
Kevin Klein (Men's Cross Country) November 12, 2007
Kim Adams (Women's Volleyball) November 7, 2007
Ben Miller (Men's Water Polo) October 31, 2007
Alie Avina (Women's Soccer) October 19, 2007
Charity Elliott (Women's Basketball Head Coach) October 15, 2007
Jason Le (Men's Soccer ) October 3, 2007
Rebecca Bailey (Women's Volleyball) September 18, 2007