Q & A with Nikki Gamble

Oct. 7, 2004

The fourth-ranked Washington women's soccer team begins Pac-10 play this weekend with a pair of games in the state of Arizona. UW plays at Arizona State on Friday and Arizona on Sunday.

This marks the fifth of five consecutive weekends on the road for the Huskies who are in the midst of a 41-day stretch between home games. UW, which last played at home on Sept. 3, returns to Seattle Oct. 15 to host USC at Husky Soccer Field.

Gohuskies.com: What are your thoughts on the team's great start to the 2004 season?

NG: 'It's awesome. There's not really much else you can say. We've been working hard and winning games. The dynamic of our team is so interesting because we don't really have a junior class at all.'

Gohuskies.com: Before the season would you have thought the team would be 9-1 after the non-conference season?

NG: 'You always want to predict the most successful season that you can. Smitty (Kelli Smith) and I met a lot over the summer with the coaches and our whole senior class has talked amongst ourselves. This is the year. We always heard about the team from 2000. We want 2004 to be the new 2000.'

Gohuskies.com: Are you surprised how well the defense has played with two freshmen starters and Nicole Martinez out of the lineup for most of the season?

NG: 'I think it's awesome. Nicole is obviously a big, important part of our team. With Nicole being injured, it's been great seeing Clare (Rustad) take the responsibility on herself and Smitty, being the old timers back there. They have helped the freshmen out. The freshmen, Whitney (Clark), Dana (Stirn) and the sophomores like Shaela (Ward) have stepped in and contributed and played their hearts out.'

Gohuskies.com: What is it like to play on such a balanced offense?

NG: 'Our offense is very dynamic. All of us run around everywhere and it's hard for teams to defend that. All of us work hard and try to capitalize on opportunities. We just go out there and try to get on the same page. We make runs and create chaos basically, but organized chaos for us.'

Gohuskies.com: Have opponents tried to do special things defensively to try to stop Tina Frimpong?

NG: 'Oh yeah. I definitely think that's true. I can only assume in their scouting reports that that's a big target for them, to shut down Tina. It also gives us an opportunity to take advantage of the other players that we have on offense. We draw defensive teams towards Tina and the rest of us are open. You can see by looking at the stat sheet that so many people have points who are scoring goals and assisting. It's just all over the board and that makes us even more dangerous.'

Gohuskies.com: To what do you attribute your statistical improvement?

NG: 'Last year I played in the midfield mostly up to Pac-10s until Smitty got injured. Then, I moved back there on defense. For me, the biggest step forward was coming into my own as a leader on the team. Our entire class has had to do that because of our unique team dynamic. Confidence is another thing. Last year was my first season as a Husky. This year I'm more confident and have come into my own a little bit more.'

Gohuskies.com: You transferred to Washington from Iowa State prior to the 2003 season. Is that awkward for you to be a team captain and leader even though some other players have been around a lot longer?

NG: 'It was a little awkward, but honestly I came here and right way I felt like I already had been here since freshman year. I don't think of it as Smitty and I are the leaders just because we are captains. Everyone as individuals are leaders, especially in our senior class.'

Gohuskies.com: Did you consider Washington, or were you recruited by the Huskies out of Oak Harbor High School?

NG: 'Not really, but it's a two-way street. I wasn't really looking here and they were looking for other things. That's sometimes what happens. I went to Iowa State, a building program. That was awesome my freshman year, I played a ton. My sophomore year, it wasn't really building anywhere so I was just lucky to have this opportunity to come to UW. It's worked out better than I could have ever thought.'

Gohuskies.com: What did the team do to regroup after Friday's first loss of the season, at San Diego?

NG: 'Obviously you are frustrated at first and disappointed. But you have to have a little perspective. At that point we were 8-1, and that's awesome in itself. We just had to regroup and refocus and get each other fired up to head out again on the field.'

Gohuskies.com: Do you pay attention to the national rankings that have UW at No. 4?

NG: 'Yeah, somewhat. It's exciting that we went from not being ranked at all to now being fourth. It's exciting to see that. We can't get too caught up into that stuff because in the end we have to keep playing our game and whoever comes out to play better is what matters.'

Gohuskies.com: Are you getting opponent's best game because of your lofty ranking?

NG: 'The better we do, the bigger the target on our back gets. We know that teams are coming out hard on us. The good thing about it is that this weekend starts a new season, the Pac-10 season. We need to bust into it just as we did with our season at the beginning of September.'

Gohuskies.com: Did you explain to the freshmen how intense the upcoming Pac-10 season will be?

NG: 'We haven't had that discussion quite yet. They know from hearing us talk about it and everything. The big thing for us is to refocus for the season and realize that it's a clean slate and we are starting over basically. We need to be ready for it.'

Gohuskies.com: Do you feel UW has been tested for the Pac-10 season after playing four ranked teams and seven road games already?

NG: 'That's really the biggest test of our season, just that we were away from home so much and we're still winning. We're having to deal with all these external influences like the tornado at Maryland. That's been a challenge to see how we can deal with everything that has been thrown at us so far.'

Gohuskies.com: How will it feel next Friday (Oct. 15) to finally play at home again?

NG: 'Amazing. It's going to be awesome. The energy level will be high. We have the best crowd, the best fans. Going to other schools, it really makes us miss here even more because our fans are so intense. We can't wait to be home.'

Gohuskies.com: What are your future plans after soccer season ends?

NG: 'I'm still trying to figure that one out. I'm a business major so I'm going to look into some options there. I kind of want to get into coaching club teams around the area for a while and just see where that takes me. I'm young and I feel like I have a little more time to figure that out. If I can, I'd like to still play soccer, at least with the Sounders, while I'm healthy.'

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