Oct. 1, 2001
By Steve Hitchcock
You might think that being one of three returning seniors would add to the pressure of playing for the defending Pac-10 championship soccer team that advanced to last year's NCAA Sweet 16, but returning midfielder Caroline Putz does not seem fazed.
'I see the pressures of being an upperclassman leader, but I have a lot of confidence in our team,' says Putz, a senior from Bountiful, Utah. 'Even the players that step into my position will do just as well or better than I have.'
As modest as Putz's demeanor is, her statistics coming into her last season are quite the opposite. Putz is the Huskies' leading returning scorer from last season with nine assists, seven goals (four of which were game-winning), and 23 total points. She also holds the No. 2 spot in career assists for Husky women's soccer with 21. Her 10 assists of game-winning goals is also a school record.
'We certainly don't want to put the all the weight on her shoulders, but she's our most experienced goal scorer and assist getter,' says eighth-year head coach Lesle Gallimore. 'We have achieved some success as a program and a lot of that had to do with her.'
In the Huskies' first six games, Putz racked up two assists and one goal, helping propel the team to a 4-1-1 start and a 14th-place national ranking. Her first goal of this season was scored from seven yards out from a cross-field pass against Utah State, where the Huskies won by a score of 4-1. Already off to a fast start, Putz's attitude toward scoring goals and adding to her assist totals is still incredibly unselfish.
'I'm not solely concentrating on myself scoring goals, I think about the team scoring goals,' she says. 'It doesn't matter to me if I score or someone else does, as long as the team scores.'
Her relaxed mind-set about her on field performance has proven to be successful throughout her entire soccer career.
By qualifying through state and regional tournaments, Putz was chosen to play for the U.S. Women's National Team, where she joined fellow Husky Hope Solo. She saw her first action against Italy, firing in a goal in the 87th minute for her first international score.
'It [playing at the international level] was a good experience, and my level of play definitely went up,' she says.
A prep star at Bountiful High School, Putz scored over 100 career goals and led her team to a state championship. Last year, she earned Pac-10 player of the week honors after scoring game-winning goals in crucial wins over second-ranked Santa Clara and 17th-ranked Utah.
Despite all of her individual success on the field, Putz's favorite moment as a Husky was a team accomplishment, capturing the 2000 Pac-10 title with an 18-3 season.
'Winning the Pac-10 was great to do it for the team and the coaches,' she says.
The level of success that Putz has earned and experienced throughout the past few seasons has not come without painful lows. In her first season at the collegiate level, Washington stumbled at the end of a successful season and just missed out on a Pac-10 title.
'We could've won the Pac-10 my freshman year, but we lost to Washington State on the road,' she says. 'It was horrible.'
Fortunately for Putz, the high points in her career greatly outweigh the lows, and with her relaxed, lead-by-example attitude, the Huskies have a strong chance to defend the Pac-10 title this season. Putz, a true team player, chooses not to think about what the future may hold.
'I think that winning the Pac-10 has been a main focus,' she says, 'but the focus now is just to play well.'
With Putz around to help the Huskies maintain their focus, playing well should not be a problem.