With just two weeks to go in the 2007 regular season, the UC San Diego Women’s Soccer team has surrendered only five goals while rolling up an 11-1-1 record. One of the primary reasons for the defensive stinginess has been the play of senior sweeper Alie Avina. A second team All-CCAA selection as a junior in 2005, the 5-11 Camarillo native is known primarily for her height and booming free kicks. But Triton Head Coach Brian McManus is more impressed with the nuances of her game. “All everybody talks about is the fact that she can drive the ball 50 yards,” says McManus, who has seven NCAA championships on his resume. “They forget about her other skills. Alie reads the game so well that she’s never really in trouble back there and many of the little passes she makes are more important than those she puts over the top. She’s also a great team player who could have graduated last year but really wanted to come back and be part of this team.” With her senior season coming towards a close, Avina took time to talk about her career and what’s ahead.
Q—After redshirting last year, how did it feel to get back onto the field in a regular season game?
AVINA—It was a long awaited year, and it was the greatest feeling stepping on to the field again. Although I was excited I was very nervous at the same time, wondering if I was still able to compete at such a high level.
Q—What are the plusses and minuses of usually being the tallest player on the field?
AVINA—Being tall has helped in situations such as offensive corner kicks because the other team seems to get really nervous; little do they know I am just the decoy. On the other hand being the tallest player on the field isn’t always a plus. Sometimes I get called for fouls just because I am bigger then the other player.
Q—In the UCSD defensive alignment, what are the primary responsibilities of a sweeper?
AVINA—Mostly I try and keep the defense organized, since I am the last defender back I can see everything on the field and tend to be very vocal. On the rare occasion that someone on the other team gets past the rest of my team, I try and delay them from going to goal or put in a tackle when the situation dictates.
Q—There have a been an abnormal number of injuries and other situations that have resulted in ongoing modification to the defensive lineup this year. Is it difficult to have a changing cast of players on the backline?
AVINA—It is difficult because you get used to playing with the same people game in and game out and the way they play. When it changes it takes some time adjusting to new players. Injuries take a toll on the team because they are unpredictable, but regardless of who is in the line up, when we step on to the field we all have the same goal in mind.
Q—What type of communication do you have with the goalkeeper and how important is that interaction during the course of a game?
AVINA—Interaction and communication with the goalkeeper is a vital part to our team chemistry. From her position she can see things that no one else can and it is key that she communicates to us what she sees.
Q—What do you consider your greatest contributions to the UCSD team? Are there any areas of your game you wish were better?
AVINA—I feel like I read the game fairly well and hopefully that helps in my decision- making all over the field. I am probably most known for my big kick and I love taking long free kicks. There are many areas in which I would like to improve. One would be my speed. I would love to be faster and I wish I were better at heading the ball, especially into the goal.
Q—When and where did you start playing soccer?
AVINA—I started playing soccer at the age of four in Camarillo, CA. I was almost five so they let me play even though I was kind of young. My first team was called the Ghostbusters and I was only one of three girls on the team, which is probably why we were out-voted on the team name.
Q—Did you play any other sports when you were younger? What made concentrate on soccer?
AVINA—I never really played any other sports. I liked soccer and stuck with it. In high school I did run track, but tried to stay away from the running part and just did high jump.
Q—UCSD is currently leading the CCAA South Division but injuries have depleted the roster somewhat. With four regular season games remaining and then the CCAA Tournament, what do you feel will be the keys to defending the conference championship?
AVINA—I think the main thing is to keep everyone healthy and hopefully the injured players will return as soon as possible. Leadership is key when playing in big games like the CCAA Championships and with nine seniors on the team we always have a lot of leadership all over the field. We are a very talented team and we just need to take it one game at a time putting two halves together in each game.
Q—Under Coach Brian McManus, the UCSD Women have won seven NCAA Championships and six of the last seven CCAA titles. Why do you think his teams have been so successful?
AVINA—UCSD has always seemed to have had a great Women’s Soccer program and good players are drawn to good programs. I think this is one reason the teams have been so successful. An even larger reason for the success of the program is the coaching staff. Brian is well known throughout the soccer community which helps recruiting, has a great knowledge of the game and can improve any team and its players. He knows how to get the most out of his players and how to get them up for every game.
Q—What has been your most interesting experience at UCSD outside of soccer?
AVINA—Sun God is always an interesting experience. I’ll just leave it at that.
Q—When are you expecting to graduate and what are your post-graduate plans?
AVINA—I am expecting to graduate after this ‘07 fall quarter and return to my home town. After graduation I also plan on getting my coaching license and hopefully picking up a team or two and learn a little about the coaching aspect of soccer.
Q—What are three things you’d like to accomplish before you graduate?
AVINA—I don’t have very much time left but I would love for our team to win another CCAA championship which would bring us closer to our ultimate goal of winning a national championship. That would be a great way to end the nine seniors’ last season. If we accomplish these two things I will not have very much time for anything else, but I do want to enjoy the rest of my time here in San Diego with the amazing people I have become friends with.