November 1, 2000

Bronco Women's Soccer Player Lives Olympic Dream

Oct. 5, 2000

By BRIAN ELSNER
Sports Editor, The Santa Clara

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Dreams are something in the future for most college students. The present consists of tests, parties, and hopes of a successful future after graduation. For junior Danielle Slaton, her dream became a reality two months ago when she boarded the plane for Sydney, Australia to compete in the Summer Olympics as a member of the U.S. National soccer team.

As the only player on the national team with college eligibility remaining, Slaton showed the world that she is mature beyond her years. Using both her athletic ability and her natural leadership abilities, Slaton was able to live out her dreams before even finishing college by winning a silver medal in Australia.

"You always dream these things, but when they actually happen, it's amazing," Slaton said.

After spending long months working hard in residency camp in San Diego, Slaton began getting invited to play in national team games throughout the world. She played well enough each time to get invited back for the next match. Eventually, Head Coach April Henrichs met with Slaton and informed her she had made the team for the Olympics. While extremely excited about making the team, Slaton did not feel the impact of her dream until she was on the field in Sydney.

"The best thing is when you have the national team jersey on and you hear the national anthem playing," she said. "That is when you realize that you are actually playing for your country."

Although Slaton was all business on the field, she was able to enjoy her experience at the Olympics as well. While waiting at the Opening Ceremonies, Slaton found time to mingle with her fellow athletes. She spent time talking with tennis stars Lindsey Davenport and Monica Seles, as well as track superstar Marion Jones. But meeting sports superstars was no match for the awesome experience of walking into the Olympic stadium as a member of the United States Olympic team.

"You get caught up in all of it. It was a whirlwind of people and it was absolute craziness," Slaton said. "People are cheering and you are waving your flag. It is awesome to watch on TV, but it is so much better actually being down on the field."

While Slaton was enjoying her Olympic experience, her Bronco teammates were at home fighting for wins and recognition in the national polls. Despite the fact that Santa Clara missed her presence on defense, the players and Head Coach Jerry Smith supported Slaton while she lived out her dreams.

"He [Coach Smith] was amazing and very supportive," she said. "He understood that part of the reason I came to Santa Clara was to improve and be able to one day play for the Olympic team."

Now that Slaton has returned to the Broncos, the team is better than ever. With victories over Wake Forest, Gonzaga, and Pepperdine after her return, Slaton hopes that the 2000 Santa Clara team will be able to continue improving as the season continues. As Slaton returns to the college game, she takes with her many things she learned while playing with the women she admires the most.

"Not a lot of people have the fortune of playing with the pioneers of their sport. These women have changed the game of soccer in the United States and the world," Slaton said. "Seeing how hard they work on the field and off the field, you can't help but respect that and be inspired by that."

It is through her own work ethic and determination that Slaton has garnered accolades and awards as a college player. The first team All-American recorded four goals and 14 assists last season as a sophomore and earned all-Tournament honors for her postseason play. Yet Slaton would trade in all of her personal accomplishments for a national championship that seemed so close last season. While she focuses on reaching the College Cup for the third time in her collegiate career, Slaton also realizes that she has a bright future ahead of her.

"I enjoy playing soccer right now and I feel really blessed to have the ability to play soccer," she said. "I know one day I won't be able to so I want to enjoy it while I can. And 10 to 15 years from now I can worry about getting a job, a husband and all that other adult stuff. Right now I am just extending my childhood as much as I can."

Dreams really do come true. For some, it just comes sooner than expected.