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The 2001 national champion Santa Clara women's soccer roster featured five All-Americans, nine All-WCC performers and the WCC Player of the Year. One of the most important players on that team, however, was a freshman that did not receive any individual accolades. Goalkeeper Alyssa Sobolik (AS) went 14-2 in goal for the Broncos while making 32 saves and only allowing a 0.56 GAA. Of her 14 wins on the season, seven were shutouts, including a 1-0 shutout of North Carolina in the national championship game. SantaClaraBroncos.com (SCB) had a chance to talk to Sobolik about her memories of that championship season.
SCB: What have you been up to recently?
AS: After doing some traveling and living in Australia for awhile with teammate Bree Horvath, I am now living in San Diego coaching goalkeepers for the soccer club Rancho Santa Fe Attack and getting married Nov. 7th!
SCB: What is your fondest memory of your experience with the national championship team?
AS: I think the whole Final Four experience was amazing. Being a freshman I really had no idea what to expect but all season long I think the whole team had this feeling that we belonged here and were about to do great things. All season long Jerry Smith would talk to us about "when" we win the National Championship, not "if" and it just felt right.
My fondest memory would be watching the clock tic down from 10 seconds in the final game. I happened to be in goal on the side that faced the scoreboard and timer and it felt like the longest 10 seconds of my life but once it hit zero it just felt like everything we had worked hard for had finally paid off. It was a feeling I will never forget!
SCB: What do you think was so special about that group?
AS: I think that we had amazing leaders. From day one my freshmen class of about 10 walked in and didn't feel intimidated but an immense feeling of respect and desire to make them proud. I was lucky enough to room with Danielle Slaten during preseason and I could not have asked for a better roommate. However tired, exhausted or overwhelmed I was she always had encouraging words. It was like rooming with Yoda!
SCB: How would you describe the team chemistry on that 2001 team?
AS: We definitely all loved each other. We all knew our roll on the team and were happy to play it out. The seniors and leaders on the team were hard on us, but it didn't come without them backing it up. If they demanded us to work harder or be tougher, it was because they were working harder and being tougher.
I can remember watching film of the 2001 semis and finals with the team the following season and it literally felt like we went to war for each other. The intensity and selflessness on the field was unbelievable. If one player let down for one second, another teammate was there to pick them up. It was just not an option to quit. We didn't want to let each other down.
SCB: Specifically, what did this team do well?
AS: I think we had a great mix of speed, ball control and overall toughness. We had control with players like Aly Wagner, Danielle Slaton and Veronica Zepeda, with Bree Horvath and Jessica Ballweg and toughness with Leslie Osborne, Devynn Hawkins, Kristi Candau, Carrie Kathcart and the list could go on.
SCB: What characteristic of yours do you feel most contributed to helping the team win?
AS: I think blind faith. I have always been a player who believed there was always a chance, whether we were losing by two goals with a minute left, to win. I always felt that there was a way. I laugh about it now and call it delusional faith but I think to be a successful athlete you need to always believe that you can win!
SCB: What was the atmosphere like upon returning to Santa Clara after the game?
AS: Unfortunately school was already out for winter break so we really did not expect many people to welcome us. Fortunately I was wrong and there was a great reception at the airport as well as one in front of the Mission. It made us so proud to be a Bronco!
AS: I miss the friendships and the competitiveness. There is really something to be said for being able to go out everyday, work your butt off and try to win for people that you love and respect.
SCB: How do you think the experience of being a national champion has affected your life? What has it taught you?
AS: I think that it has really taught me that with hard work and determination, great things can be accomplished. As a female coach I think that I have learned so many great things from so many of the amazing coaches I have had a chance to play for and learn from: Jerry Smith, Eric Yamamoto, Curtis McAlister and Rich Manning. All of these coaches, tough vastly different in their coaching techniques, are amazing coaches with great values to learn. I think I will always remember that Jerry's goal as a coach was not only to develop amazing soccer players but to develop amazing people. And I thank him and all of those coaches for guiding all of us. I have now taken that wealth of knowledge and have done all that I can to apply it into my training now. As a rare female coach, I can only hope that I can have half the impact that these coaches have had on me.