by Mason Kelley
Nov. 11, 2002.
Just one day after finishing the regular season with a resounding 5-0 win over 15th-ranked USC, Washington's women's soccer players and coaches gathered to await the selections for the 2002 NCAA Women's College Cup.
Their names were never called.
Junior Jaime Carstensen and her fellow underclassmen watched as the team's seniors came to grips with the idea that their seasons, and college careers, were over. Now entering her fourth and final year at Washington, Carstensen refuses to suffer the same fate.
'It was one of the most disappointing days I can remember,' says Carstensen, who started 15 games at center midfield in 2003. 'It really hit hard. I don't want to be where they were. I don't think I could take that.'
Carstensen has had her share of success in soccer, which she has played since the age of six. She says her parents put her in the sport as an outlet for what seemed to be an endless bundle of energy.
'I don't know why it was soccer,' she says, thinking out loud. 'They just wanted to find a way to keep me running around. I instantly loved it. It just came naturally.'
Carstensen has devoted her life to the game she loves ever since. Such devotion required giving up weekends to play year-round, but resulted in the tiny bundle of energy blossoming into one of the top junior players in her home state of California.
By the time she graduated from Santa Rosa's Ursuline High School in 2000, Carstensen had won three California state titles, including one with a 1999 Ursuline team that was ranked third in the country. The midfielder was named state Player of the Year in 1998 and was an All-America candidate in both 1998 and 1999.
Carstensen's run of success landed her a spot on the Region IV Olympic Development Team, a squad headed by Husky head coach Lesle Gallimore.
'I've known Lesle Gallimore since I was 14,' Carstensen says. 'I enjoyed her and Amy (Griffin), who was my first regional coach. I really liked their coaching style. I came up here on a recruiting trip, my senior year, in October and I loved it.'
Carstensen was besieged with offers from other schools, but couldn't shake the positive feelings she had for Gallimore and Washington. As a freshman in 2000, Carstensen appeared in 17 games while helping the Huskies to an all-time UW best 18-3 record and a Pac-10 title. In her three years at Washington, the Huskies have won 40 games, a total unsurpassed by any other three-year span in UW history.
'I can't really see myself anywhere else,' she says. 'I think that I have just met the best people. We're so lucky here and my teammates are basically my best friends. We just genuinely care about each other. I love our team.'
Despite a love for her team, Carstensen wants to rid herself of the sour taste left in her mouth by last year's NCAA snub. Whenever her motivation wanes in the long offseason, Carstensen remembers the bitter end to last season, and all of the early morning workouts and grueling practices become worthwhile.
'I think after having such a disappointing season last year, we know what needs to be done,' she says determinedly. 'We know that every single game means everything. We lost some games we should have won last year. You can't take any game lightly.'
A determined leader, Carstensen can only help this year's team. Coach Gallimore has referred to her central midfielder as having 'a wicked shot with both feet,' feet Carstensen plans on using to fill the nets in 2003.
'I like to shoot,' she says. 'The more shots you get, the more likely you are to score goals, so why not shoot? I'm going to look to shoot a lot this year.'
If the rest of the Huskies can fall in line behind Carstensen and bring the kind of intensity and conviction she brings on a daily basis, then Washington is going to be tough to beat in the Pac-10.
'I want to be a key player on this team,' Carstensen says. 'I want people to look to me when we are down and have the faith that I can make a difference.'
Sometime in November of 2003, the team will gather again to watch the NCAA Selection Show. With Carstensen's determination driving them forward, they are certain not to be left out.