On The Pitch With Jo Jo Katz

Aug. 27, 2008

Redshirt-junior midfielder Jo Jo Katz is as excited as anyone for the 2008 season to get underway. Katz, from Mission Viejo, Calif., redshirted last year after suffering a torn ACL during the 2007 spring season. Now back and ready to play, Katz hopes to help the Huskies reach their third-straight NCAA Tournament this year. He took some time out of the squad's busy preseason training schedule this week to talk to GoHuskies.com about what it was like to sit on the sidelines last year and what his hopes are for the coming year. UW is hosting its second exhibition with the Seattle Sounders Wednesday night and traveling to Portland the very next day for the squad's openers with Fairleigh Dickinson and Virginia Tech, Friday and Sunday.

GoHuskies.com: How does it feel to be back on the field after sitting out last year with an ACL injury?

Jo Jo Katz: 'Coming back from an injury like that is always hard, it takes quite a bit of time and effort to get back. The feeling definitely came back right away, though. Getting on the field again--it's where I want to be, and I think this year is pretty promising with our new players.'

GH: Was it hard watching your teammates from the sidelines last year?

JJK: 'Yeah, it was definitely tough not being in the mix last year, but it also gave me an opportunity to see things from the outside and see where the coaches are coming from. Just seeing things from another standpoint was good.'

GH: Was this your first time dealing with a major injury?

JJK: 'I had surgery on my ankle after my freshman year. Fortunately I was only out three months compared to a whole season so I didn't have to redshirt. But coming off a big injury is always tough, but perseverance and sticking to it will help out.'

GH: Did you spend most of the summer rehabbing or were you out playing?

JJK: 'I did most of my rehabbing early because I was fortunate enough to have surgery last March. The rehab from March to the end of school helped out a lot, because by the time I came home I was cleared enough to jog and start doing some training on my own. This summer I played for a PDL [Premier Development League] team and just did my own thing. The first time I came back to Seattle I still had a month of summer so I got to enjoy the sunshine and work out with the team trainer.

GH: How's the preseason going for you guys?

JJK: 'Preseason's going good. It started out with a good, intense captain's practice the first week and we have two good weeks of coaches' double days. It's worked out well, we've been working hard, but it's definitely what we need.'

GH: What are some of your goals and expectations for the team this year?
JJK: 'I think we should do well. I think our preseason rankings are a little low, but it's always good to be the underdog. I really believe we have a good opportunity to come out on top of the Pac-10 and do well in the tournament, so hopefully everything goes well.'

GH: You guys lost all your starting forwards from a year ago. How's that transition going to finding their replacements?

JJK: 'The transition's going alright. We lost Ely Allen and Kevin Forrest, two very good forwards. I think it's going to be a little bit of a struggle to score some goals. We did try a different formation (versus Seattle U.), going from two forwards to three. We struggled a little bit with it this last game, but I think it's just because it's a new formation. I think when we went back to a 4-4-2, with two freshmen forwards up top, we got a couple goals and things looked promising. Instead of having our goals coming from two forwards or a couple of star players, I think it's going to be much more of a team effort. We're going to see more goals from individuals that aren't as used to scoring.'

GH: You're more of a veteran now, this being your fourth year with the team. How has your role on the team changed?

JJK: 'My role on the team has definitely changed. I remember my freshman year when I came in here to do a Q&A and a lot of my answers were very different. My answers were more about getting to know the team and trying to fit in and do my part on the team. I think as the years go on, younger players started to look up to me and some of the other veterans. The roles change in the sense that they look to us to settle the pace of the game, or to speak and direct on the field. Before I used to be told what to do and just follow my position. Now I need to lead by example and have people build off that.'

GH: What were your general thoughts on the team's first exhibition game with Seattle U?

JJK: 'In the first half we struggled a little bit with the formation because it was new to everybody. We're all playing similar positions so in time we'll be able to figure it out. It was clear to everybody that when we went back to the 4-4-2, a more clear formation, that everything started panning its way out. I think with us being patient and working on things we've struggled on in the past, thing's will be alright. Before we used to rely on the forwards a little bit, and they'd pull us out of bad positions and such, but this year it's going to be more about the team and passing the ball. We're going to have to work on our balance.'

GH: Your next exhibition is against the Sounders. How do you prepare to go up against a bunch of pros?

JJK: 'It's definitely going to be a good opportunity for players. The last time we went up against the Sounders we went down 5-0, so hopefully we can have a better showing this time, even it was spring, and spring is different than fall, especially with our new additions. We want to work on positional tactics, a lot of restarts and free kicks. Our mindsets have to be different--more calm and cool. In the college game you go out wanting to play for your school and you want to have that team spirit. When you get to the pros, the atmosphere is a little different. They know what they're doing and we need to come out knowing what we're doing.'

GH: What are your thoughts about starting the year at the Nike Portland Invitational this weekend against Fairleigh Dickinson and Virginia Tech?

JJK: 'I'm really excited to get back out there. Sunday's match is going to be very good. We play Virginia Tech and they finished pretty high last year so it's going to be our first test of how we're going to do this season.

GH: How are the new players meshing with the returning players?

JJK: 'I think all the freshmen are all doing well. I think compared from spring to fall you see a big difference in some of the gaps that we lost, like with our forwards. We're going to have some good opportunities. Everyone is a freshman once, and it's kind of tough to play, but I think with our team coming together our chemistry is starting to show. In time we're going to start gelling more and take off. It's interesting watching the team grow from when you first meet everybody to the first game.'

GH: You and George John came in as freshmen together, and with you redshirting last year he's a senior and you're a junior now. What's it like knowing this is your last year at UW with him?

JJK: 'It's tough. When we came in together we were the two freshmen playing our freshman year. I always thought that we'd leave together and it would be our senior class, but I had a little fallback with my knee. But it's all good. George has grown a lot, he's an excellent player, and he's going to hold the team on his shoulders this year and a lot of players are going to look up to him. I wish all the best to him, we were going to depart soon enough, and I think we'll be okay.'

GH: Where is your favorite place to play?

JJK: 'I've got to say, since I'm from California, my favorite place to play is UCLA. It's a huge rival, definitely a school I was looking at [in high school], and I have my family close by. It's always fun to play in front of my family and friends.'

GH: What were your thoughts on the soccer performances in the Olympics?

JJK: 'The soccer was good. I actually have some buddies that are on the team. Growing up with them and watching them play in the Olympics was very interesting and very fun. It's definitely some place I want to be in the next couple of years, hopefully if everything works out. It's weird to grow up having these goals and all of a sudden you see people your age achieving these goals. I think the Olympics is an amazing activity and I'm extremely happy with how we did. I think soccer's growing each and every day.'

GH: Well, good luck this season Jo Jo!

JJK: 'Thanks!'

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