Bianca Henninger Prepares with Confidence

Story Written by Student Assistant Stephen Hobbs '11

Confidence

Athletes of the present day possess it and some of the most infamous people are driven by it. However, The greats exude unrelenting confidence in their own abilities but do not view their own pursuits greater than those of others.

Bianca Henninger exhibits an unbending sense of confidence. Oklahoma State can attest to that. The Broncos defeated the Cowgirls last season 6-5 in a shootout victory in the NCAA Tournament Second Round. The junior goalkeeper from Archbishop Mitty stole the show. Henninger fired a shot into the upper left corner for Santa Clara's first shootout goal and she blocked Adrianna Franch, the third shooter for Oklahoma State, and Colleen Dougherty, the seventh shooter for the Cowgirls, to seal the win for the Broncos.

"My confidence in my ability to save a penalty kick during the shootout transferred to my confidence that I would make the penalty kick that I was shooting," said Henninger.

Although she had never taken a penalty kick before in any game or shootout in her career, Henninger was clutch. "I truly believe acting confident and having kind of an attitude on the field can effect the way you play. I know acting confident really allows me to believe in myself and my abilities as a soccer player," added Henninger.

"She is one of the hardest workers I know. Every training session or game she is always trying to improve her gave even though it doesn't seem like she has any flaws," said sophomore Allie Vernon. "I would say Bianca is arguably the best goalkeeper in the country and I think that comes down to her passion and dedication for the game."

Where did this confidence come from? Henninger remembers the situation. It started when she lost a State Cup match when she was younger on a penalty kick. Her coach, Bob Joyce, told her after the match that she didn't react well to the penalty kick and would have done better if she was more confident. In a State Cup match, a couple years later, Henninger decided to spite her coach and be outlandishly confident to prove it didn't make a difference. " I ended up saving the penalty kick during the game. So ever since then I've just acted really outwardly confident and it has worked really well for me," said Henninger.

That is an understatement.

Henninger will represent the United States in the U-20 World Cup in Germany from July 13-August 1, which will culminate a journey of a year and a half. The entire process for picking the team started in January of 2009 and she was forced to expertly balance academics and athletics. To qualify for the U-20 World Cup, the United States had to qualify in the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) U-20 Women's Championships. "For Guatemala, we started practice up again after the college season in late December, I left school for the first week in January, came back to school for a week, and then went to Guatemala for the remainder of January."

Even with these circumstances she will not complain about the process. "Spring quarter was definitely the hardest because most everyone on my U-20 team was on the semester system, so going to these camps and seeing all of them watching movies and hanging out while I had school work that I was supposed to be doing was never fun," said Henninger. "However, I would much rather have to deal with the struggle of this balance than not have a chance to play for my country, and you really get used to it as your college career develops."

Once the U-20 World Cup is finished she will then focus her attention to the fall season. "My favorite part about getting to the Sweet 16 last year is the hunger we have as a team to do better and go farther. We really want to reestablish the Santa Clara women's soccer tradition after struggling with injuries and what not for so long. I'm most excited about that part of the journey, to make Santa Clara a place where girls in the area want to go and watch soccer games, like I did when I was younger."

In only two years Henninger has proved to be a stalwart on the field for head coach Jerry Smith and the Santa Clara women's soccer team. Off the field, Henninger is an unassuming student who shows little interest in acting ostentatiously. "I like to let my actions and play speak for themselves so that I don't have to be so outwardly confident off the field," added Henninger.

"She is so confident and that really extends to the other players on the field," said sophomore goalkeeper Alexis Rubattino. "Because of this confidence the players trust her enough to listen to what she says, focus on their own jobs and it really brings everyone together to play as a team and not individuals. She is a great friend off the field and anyone who knows her will know how laid back and calm she is, but she is really able to transform to a competitor on the field, which is really important in our position.

The United States will open up the U-20 World Cup on July 14th against Ghana. To follow Bianca Henninger and the United States during the tournament can go to: http://www.fifa.com/u20womensworldcup/matches/index.html.