When Annette Ilg dropped in a career-best 25 points during a
season-ending 76-72 loss to Humboldt State in the 2010 NCAA West Regional, most
people thought it'd be the last time Ilg would wear a Triton uniform. She'd
earn her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry and move on to pursue a career in
medicine. Ilg walked with the rest of her classmates to grab her diploma in
June but this fall, she's making use of her final year of eligibility by trading
basketball sneakers for soccer cleats while keeping her career sights as a UCSD
graduate student. The 5-foot-10 forward has carried her competitive fire to the
pitch and she's produced quick results for head coach Brian McManus. Last week
the sixth-ranked Tritons outscored two Pacific West Conference opponents,
Dominican and Notre Dame de Namur, by a tally of 8-0, and Ilg notched three of
those goals. With No. 23 Cal State L.A. and No. 9 Cal State Dominguez Hills traveling
to La Jolla for this weekend's matches, the Golden Eagles and Toros will need a
new gameplan with Ilg in the mix. Before heading back to the practice field,
Ilg took a moment to discuss the transition from hoops to kicks, her struggles
as an Ohio sports fan and how the Tritons' soccer squad has made her feel
Q: After pouring your heart and soul into four years of basketball at UCSD, how did the thought of playing collegiate soccer pop into your mind?
ILG: The idea was actually proposed to me by [women's basketball head coach] Charity Elliott one random day during spring quarter. I was initially planning to play basketball overseas when this opportunity arose over text message. The very next day and my first day back to soccer I played with the girls in a scrimmage against a semi-pro team. I was extremely nervous but had a lot of fun.
Q: Can you describe the reaction you got from Tritons' head
coach Brian McManus when you told him you wanted to compete for a spot on the
ILG: I did not see his initial reaction actually. Coach Elliott may be able to describe that more to you as she was the one who advertised me as a player for him to recruit. I didn't even speak to Brian personally until after the semi-pro scrimmage and 7-on-7 tournament. As Lisa [Bradley] relayed, he liked my physical presence on the field and my aggressive style around the goal. He could tell that I had skill as a soccer player but needed some time and work to get my touch back.
Q: When you were looking at different universities as a
senior in high school, what were the most important factors in choosing UC San
ILG: UC San Diego had all of the factors that I wanted, including: 1. Challenging academics - particularly biology/chemistry. 2. Quality and competitive teams - both soccer and basketball met this standard. 3. Location - I wanted to go to the southwest part of the U.S. 4. Climate - escape the humidity of Ohio and go somewhere with lots of sunshine. 5. New place with a new challenge - home was over 2,000 miles away where family and friends were, so moving here was scary but helped me to mature and gain independence -- this was definitely something I wanted.
Q: In deciding between playing soccer or basketball in
college, how did you select hoops as the sport you wanted to focus on?
ILG: This decision did not come easily. My whole life soccer had been my passion. Growing up, I actually wanted to be a professional soccer player. After years of club practices and footskills training, I wanted to devote more time to playing basketball. I love that basketball is a sport I can go to RIMAC everyday and play in the auxiliary gym with whoever walks in the door. Quality soccer can be a bit more difficult to play in a pickup or recreation sort of situation. I also feel that soccer is less appreciated in America compared to basketball so that swayed me slightly.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about how the UCSD soccer team
has welcomed you and how does that chemistry compare to the basketball squad
you spent four years with?
ILG: Joining a team as a senior, or freshman graduate student I suppose, is always difficult, but the soccer girls have been very welcoming. We went to Disneyland before season started and had a blast together. They are a very outgoing and goofy bunch of girls that I really did not know too well in my four years of basketball. I'm really glad I am getting the chance to know all 25 girls on the team. It's hard to compare a team I have been with a few months to a team I have spent four years with. I have so many memories with the basketball girls, and they are irreplaceable to me. I have friends on that team that I know will always be a part of my life. But right now, I am in a new chapter and can always add new friends. Lisa Bradley loves to put me on the spot to do random and silly voices or dances in front of the team. It's been interesting to interact with so many new people, and she definitely knows how to make me nervous but all in fun of course.
Q: Being in this position, you now have the chance to learn
from two great coaches - basketball's Charity Elliot and soccer's Brian
McManus. How would you compare the two?
ILG: Let's get ready to RUUUUUUUMBLLLEEE! In our right corner, we have Charity Elliott, 5-foot-9 and hailing from Missouri. She is a lean, mean, fighting machine. In our left corner, we have Brian McManus at 5-foot-7, a Scotland native. He is a bare-footed boy blunder.
Ding Ding! Round One: Charity swings with a very exact style: every minute of practice planned to a tee and road-trips scheduled from restaurant to road taken. Brian swipes back with a laid-back yet refined form: practice adapts to the current needs and a "Brian conditioning" practice is always unpredictable.
Ding Ding! Round Two: Brian upper cuts with a swift and quick pregame locker room talk of a joke and "Are you wallies ready to play?" Charity dives in with a thorough 20-minute lay of the land. Personnel, stats, plays, all outlined on the board.
Ding Ding! The third and final Round: Charity charges in with a comprehensive analysis of game film and a five-page scouting report on our opponent. Brian counters with a confident - we do what we do - attitude and gives pointers on the style of the other team.
One, two, three...It's a draw. They both put up a tough fight, but success is just too prevalent for UCSD women's soccer and basketball. No losers here.
Q: The Tritons host No. 23 Cal State L.A. at 4:30 p.m.
Friday and then No. 9 Cal State Dominguez Hills arrives in La Jolla for a 12
p.m. match on Sunday. How have your current teammates described the soccer
rivalry between UCSD and those two visiting squads?
ILG: The exact words they have used to describe the rivalry I probably shouldn't mention, but I share their feelings. For basketball, when I even see green, a lumberjack, or the name Humboldt, a certain vengeance comes about. I relate the same feelings to L.A. and even more so to Dominguez. Rivalries bring out the best competition and passion in a lot of players, so I am very excited to be a part of these upcoming matches.
Q: As the second youngest of eight children, can you talk a
little bit about the environment you grew up in and how sports played a role in
the relationships you have with your brothers and sisters?
ILG: Sports played a huge role for me growing up. Volleyball, track, cross country, softball, soccer, and basketball were all the ones I played competitively, but any sport or excuse to run around outside was an activity I loved. All of my siblings were active in sports and with ten people it isn't too hard to play basketball or field a game of softball.
Of course, being athletic helped me to grow closer with my brothers. Overall, I would say my passion for athletics made the biggest difference in my relationship with my dad. He is an avid athlete and fan of most all sports. He understands the rules and demands of each sport I played, so he was always there to talk to about whatever successes or failures I was experiencing. He is so positive and encouraging and one of the greatest factors in my move to UCSD: to know he was supporting me and both my parents were flying across the country to watch me compete meant the world to me.
Q: Growing up near Cleveland and supporting the Ohio sports
teams for so long, what is your expert analysis on LeBron James' "Decision" and
the Cavaliers' crazy summer?
ILG: To be honest, I stay away from the politics side of sports and stick to the competition. I know Cleveland is in an uproar because how he handled the situation, but in my opinion, he is an athlete first and an amazing one at that. He has been an idol of mine since I saw him play at St. Vincent-St. Mary High school. He has the right to go and play for whichever team he desires. Of course, I would love to see him in wine and gold, but I can respect his quest for a national championship ring.
Q: Last question and it's a tough one. Who would win a
karaoke competition, the UCSD basketball team or the UCSD soccer team?
ILG: Well, you've put me in a tough position. Soccer does outnumber the B-ballers, but have you heard Erin Grady hold a note? That girl sings just about everywhere we go. And, we did have a band that was on tour last winter called The Starting Five with Magda on lead vocals. We were kind of a big deal. Although, the soccer girls do sing "I'll Make a Man Out of You" from Mulan, and Gabi gets going in her singing moods as well. I think we will just have to hold a karaoke competition to find out!
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