Danielle Thomas, a
sophomore defender, is a key member of the mighty defense of the Pepperdine
women's soccer team. Over the past four games, the defense has allowed no
goals, giving the Waves a 3-0-1 record to begin conference play. The Waves
continue their season this Saturday up north against Saint Mary's. We get
Danielle's thoughts on the team heading into another big game:
Q: There were a big couple wins for you this past week, what do they mean to the team?
A: I think that at the beginning of the year, we were all a little worried that we would repeat what we did last season, and underachieve by a lot. But, these wins are definitely a confidence builder. I think that we needed them to understand that we are moving in the right direction. At the same time, though, I don't think that we will let these wins get to our heads. We have worked so hard to get to where we are, and we need to work even harder to keep it going.
Q: Each of the last four games have been shutouts. That is definitely a testament to the defense. What's made that defense so good?
A: We definitely owe a lot of that success to Hannah (Seabert). She has made some great saves so far this year to keep the ball out of the net. But overall, I think that something that we started working on over the spring has really helped. Over spring, we put in an entire team pressure, where we start pressuring with the front line. We pressure the offense, cover them as closely as possible and force them into specific areas of the field. Our success does not just come from the back line, but from the entire team pressuring the opposing offense.
Q: You are a sophomore playing next to some upperclassmen on the back line. How have they helped you during these past two years?
A: When I first came to Pepperdine, the pace of the game was so much faster than I was used to. I felt as though I had never played soccer before. Just by watching them and having them talk to me about the game is such a huge help. It was a huge help last year, and this year as well. Especially Hannah -- I told her at the beginning of the year, just say anything you need to me to help me out and to help the team out. And she has done just that. She's an amazing player. She is so soccer smart and sees the entire field so well. Anything she says to me about my game, I listen and try to implement it into my game.
Q: What makes you a good team? Is it the offensive strategy, the defensive strategy, or a mix of everything?
A: I honestly think that it is a little bit of everything. Last year, we struggled a bit because we were expecting to find the next Lynn Williams. We know this year that we are all our own individual players, and that we need to play to the best of our own abilities, not try to live up to someone else's. We are a group of exceptional individual soccer players, but what really makes us good is that we come together as individuals and use those individual talents to make us a stronger team overall. We had an extremely tough spring, running every day, but I think that by getting through that, we all know that nobody is going to let anybody else down. Girls are getting more confident up front to take shots and score.
Q: You mentioned the tough spring with a lot of running. Do you think that spring helped more with the team's physical toughness or the team's mental toughness more?
A: I definitely think that it was a mental toughness-heavy spring. Coach Ward always says that to be great, we need to break through the mental barriers that we subconsciously set for ourselves. We know that our bodies are not going to give out on us. The only way that we stop working and don't succeed is our brains. I think that because of the spring that we had, we learned that we can push ourselves past those mental barriers and really become the great team that we should be.
Q: This week, you only have one game. How does having one game as opposed to two change preparations during the week?
A: It allows us to work a little more on fitness before the game. With games on Fridays, we can have really intense practices on Tuesday, but we have to start winding back the intensity on Wednesday in order to get our bodies rested enough to play two games in the course of three days. This week, we can work a lot harder through Tuesday and Wednesday because we have an extra day to prepare for the game. We can take one of the days that we usually hold back on and use it for more intense individual skill practices or a longer full team scrimmage.
Q: Would you rather have just one game to focus on, or do you like the Friday-Sunday weekend games?
A: I would rather have the Friday-Sunday split. I fell in love with soccer through playing the game. I feel that for all of us, we just love the game itself. Practices are great, but being in the moment of an actual game is just a whole different feeling that we all just feed off of. So I personally like the two-game weekends because we get to play more actual soccer.
Q: What can we expect from the Waves going in to the rest of conference, and what are the team goals to finish out the season?
A: The team goals are definitely to win the WCC. We want that trophy in our hands at the end of conference play. Another goal we have is to make it further in the tournament than any other Pepperdine team has made it before, which would be the Elite Eight. In order to do that, we need to keep scoring. We also want to keep our shutout record, because that shows the true strength of our team. We want to keep winning, because I feel as though our team is moving in the right direction. We improve every single day; we are not the same team that we were at the beginning of our season, and we are not the same team today that we were yesterday.