In her second year as
a starting defender for the UC San Diego Women’s Soccer team, sophomore Sara
Spaventa is one of the mainstays for Coach Brian McManus’s defending conference
champions. The Santa Barbara native has been a big contributor to the 14th-ranked
Tritons’ 10-2 start, which has included five shutouts in the last seven games. "Sara’s always been a solid player, but now she’s playing a lot smarter, showing
more patience, and making the right decisions at the right times,” says McManus.
“She rarely gets beat and is starting to get forward more often when the
situation allows for it.” At the midpoint of the regular season, Spaventa took
time to talk about her soccer career and her club’s outlook for the remainder
of the year.
Q: As a sophomore,
you’re already the “veteran” on UCSD’s defensive back line. What do you see as
your role with that unit?
funny to be referred to as a “veteran” when I am only a sophomore, especially because when I look at the two freshmen who help compose our
defensive back line, I don’t consider them to be freshmen at all. They both
play with such composure and confidence that they come across as much older and
much more experienced than they really are. Last year I was lucky enough to be
able to play with Amanda Esquivel in the back, a player who I really admire and
looked up to as a freshman. It definitely hurt us to lose her on the right
side, and therefore I just hope I can fill that loss as best as I can and lead
our defensive back line as she did for me last year.
Q: Talk about the
individual and team responsibilities of your position?
SPAVENTA: As a
right defender I have the responsibility of helping to attack through the
outside, man-marking one of the opposing team’s forwards, sending long balls in
from the wing to help us gain an advantage, as well as helping to coach and
instruct the players in front of me. Our defensive line can see much more than
the midfielders and forwards on the field, and therefore Brian has been
instilling in us that we need to talk more from the back so that our formation
is organized. Since our back line is composed of all underclassmen, we are much
quieter than we probably should be at times, but Brian is working with us to
help us gain the confidence to have strong voices and really act as leaders on
the field despite our age and class.
Q: What factors are
you processing when an opposing team is mounting an attack on the Triton goal?
first thing I do as a defender is make sure I am close enough to the forward I
am marking and that she is not behind me. I also have to make sure that I am a
couple steps behind her so that if a midfielder sends in a long ball I have
enough space to get to the ball behind me first. Other than that the defenders
usually make sure no one on the opposing team is free and that our defense is
organized so that if one player gets beat either the sweeper or other outside
defender can pressure the ball while the other drops behind her to cover.
Q: How important is
verbal communication between the defenders and goalkeeper?
communication is extremely important between the defenders and goalkeeper,
especially on crosses and corners. We are fortunate enough to have an amazing
goalkeeper behind us who isn’t afraid to speak up and instruct our defensive
line on when to step up and when to back off from balls.
As far as our defensive line is with talking, we have
definitely become much more confident on and off the ball as we have progressed
into the season and the more we play with each other the more comfortable we
have become with coaching one another and talking with our goalkeeper. Without
communication between the defenders and the goalkeeper it is hard to stay
organized and it becomes very easy to make simple mistakes such as not going
for a ball when we should.
Q: Your team is very
young as a whole. What do you think it’s capable of this year and what do you
see as the keys to reaching that potential?
our team is young, we don’t play young by any means. All of our new freshmen
play as if they are much older than they are and all of the returning
sophomores have worked to act as leaders on and off the field despite our age.
One advantage of all being young and of similar age is that we have become
extremely close as a team and this has helped us gain team chemistry on the
In addition, we have four years to play together so by the
time we are all juniors and seniors our team will know each other inside and
out. As far as this year goes, I feel like our team can accomplish anything we
set our minds to. We continue to become stronger each game we play, and I truly
feel we have the caliber of player to accomplish great things and possibly even
win a championship. Of course we still have many more games we have to win and
think about before we can even consider regionals, but I definitely don’t think
our age will be a factor in whether or not we are capable of winning.
I believe the key to reaching our potential is merely confidence,
continuing to work together and feed off one another, continuing to communicate
on the field, and maintaining the enthusiasm and love we have for the game and
Q: You started 21 of
23 games as a freshman last fall.
Did you expect to have that big of an impact your first year?
SPAVENTA: I came
in last year not knowing what to expect. Of course I prayed I would get playing
time, but I definitely did not expect to become a starting defender and have as
big of an impact as I did my first year. I actually came in as a sweeper, and
then Brian moved me to the outside left defensive position which I had never
played before. It took me some time to learn how to play there, but thankfully
I had Amanda Esquivel on defense with me and our goalkeeper Jessica McGovern,
who both had great faith in me and really coached me on and off the field. I am
also thankful that Brian had the confidence in me that he had to start me as a
freshman and to never give up on me at a new position.
Q: Where do you think
you’ve improved the most between freshman and sophomore seasons?
freshman and sophomore year I have become much more confident attacking up the
line. I have also become less timid and shy on the field and not afraid to go
in hard on tackles.
Q: What, if anything,
scares you on the soccer field?
SPAVENTA: To be
honest, I am always nervous before games. I’d say the one thing that scares me
the most is having the feeling that I can’t keep up with the forward that I’m
marking or that I am letting my team down. However, it really helps to have
teammates who are so supportive and who build me up before every game because
confidence is one thing that I use to struggle with as a player.
Q: Your brother, Drew,
played basketball at UCSD. Did that have any influence on your decision to come
to La Jolla? Why?
that definitely had a huge influence on my decision to come to UCSD. My brother
loved playing basketball here and had nothing but good things to say about the
school. I always had the intention of playing soccer in college but originally
thought I wanted to attend college back east. However, after I came on my
recruiting trip and met Brian and the soccer team, I fell in love with the
program and was sold on coming here.
Q: You have a twin
sister, Juli, who now goes to UCLA. After playing with her for years, did it
seem strange not to be on the same team?
SPAVENTA: It was
so strange last year not only playing on a team without my sister, but more so
not going to school with her. I was use to having my sister to build me up and
have my back on the field. In club and high school whenever a player tackled me
hard in a game I would look to my sister and she would always be like “Don’t
worry, I’ll take care of her for you.” When we decided to go to different
schools it was a very weird feeling. However, it has forced me to become
stronger as a player and really look to myself and my teammates for the support
she use to give me.
Q: How would you
describe the relationship among the players on this year’s UCSD squad?
SPAVENTA: I am
absolutely in love with the team! Everyone is so supportive, enthusiastic about
playing and practicing, and we really build off one another. We are together
24/7 on and off the field, and since we are all about the same age we have
become very close, very fast. I can look to my teammates for just about anything
and I am just so thankful to be surrounded by such amazing people.
Q: Which teammate
would best fit each of these four descriptions---brain, personality, organizer,
SPAVENTA: Enforcer: Anne Wethe… Brain: don’t really know… Organizer: Lisa Bradley… Personality:
Q: What type of
standard team activities take place on UCSD Women’s Soccer road trips?
than practicing, going out to eat as a team, and sleeping, I really couldn’t
say how we occupy our time, although we tend to find the most random and
hilarious things to do.
We usually get together as a team and play a “traditional
UCSD Women’s Soccer road trip game” and sometimes Brian will take us to a
random field where we’ll have some type of competition between the freshmen and
Q: What has kept you
playing soccer over the years?
SPAVENTA: I would
say the friends you make and the competitive nature of playing a sport.
Q: What makes head coach Brian McManus different from other coaches you’ve played under?
SPAVENTA: There is
way too much to say about Brian as a coach. He is definitely the best coach
I’ve ever had and I couldn’t imagine playing for anyone else. The way he pumps
you up for games and really just cares about the players is unbelievable.
Q: What do you do to
relax when you’re not playing soccer?
SPAVENTA: I listen
to music, go to the beach, and just spend time with friends.
Q: You’re a psychology
major. What type of long range plans, if any, do you have at this point?
SPAVENTA: I am
probably the most undecided and indecisive person you’ll ever meet, so I’m just
going to have to say my long range plans are a huge question mark. I just hope
to be completely happy with wherever my life takes me.
Q: What would make the
2009 season a success in your eyes?
SPAVENTA: The 2009
season is already a success in my eyes, but a national championship wouldn’t
hurt at all!
Previous Q & A Articles
Karen Reis (Women's Volleyball) October 2, 2009
Daniel Pavitt (Men's Soccer) September 23, 2009
Daniel Anderson (Cross Country) September 11, 2009
Peter Gresham (Men's Water Polo) September 2, 2009
Alexia Zatarain (Women's Soccer) August 24, 2009
Elaine Chen (Women's Volleyball) August 12, 2009
Jared Kukura (Men's Soccer) July 30, 2009
Dawn Lee (Former Women's Soccer Standout) July 8, 2009
Rob Mamula (Director of Athletic Performance) June 18, 2009
Garrett Imeson (Baseball) June 8, 2009
Leon Baham (Men's Track & Field) May 21, 2009
Kristyn Lesovsky (Softball) May 8, 2009
Kazumi Negishi (Men's Tennis) May 5, 2009
Laiah Blue (Women's Track & Field) April 16, 2009
Ryan Andre (Men's Crew) April 2, 2009
Josh Tanner (Baseball) March 24, 2009
Anju Shimura (Women's Swimming) March 7, 2009
Stephanie Bocian (Women's Water Polo) February 20, 2009
Lauren Chastain (Softball) February 5, 2009
A.J. Maulhardt (Men's Basketball) January 28, 2009
Annette Ilg (Women's Basketball) January 22, 2009
Steven Hardy (Men's Swimming) January 13, 2009
Frank Fritsch (Men's Volleyball) January 5, 2009
Kendall Bohn (Women's Swimming) December 22, 2008
Kelvin Kim (Men's Basketball) December 15, 2008
Michelle Osier (Women's Basketball) December 5, 2008
Sylvia Schmidt (Women's Volleyball) November 7, 2008
Denny Harper (Men's Water Polo Head Coach) October 17, 2008
Ron Larsen (USA Volleyball Assistant Coach) October 13, 2008
Jessica McGovern (Women's Soccer) October 6, 2008
Bre Schofield (Cross Country) September 26, 2008
Tony Fernandez (Men's Soccer) September 18,2008
Kimberly Carpenter (Women's Volleyball) September 12, 2008
A.J. Kotanjian (Men's Water Polo) September 2, 2008
Peter Akman (Men's Soccer) August 21, 2008
Natasha Belak-Berger (Women's Soccer) August 15, 2008
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