On The Pitch With Taylor Mueller

Oct. 24, 2008

Sophomore defender Taylor Mueller and the Huskies get ready to host a big Pac-10 series this weekend, hosting fellow conference leader UCLA on Friday and San Diego State on Sunday. Friday night's match is especially important, as UW will look to avenge a 2-0 loss suffered in Westwood last Friday and a win could put the Huskies in the driver's seat for the Pac-10 title race. Mueller, one of UW's two starting central defenders, has played a key role in the success of UW's backline. He took some time to talk to GoHuskies.com this week about the season so far and the Huskies' drive for a Pac-10 championship.

GoHuskies.com: What are your thoughts on the season at the midway point of Pac-10 play?
Taylor Mueller: 'Right now is pretty much the most intense part of the season. We're tied with UCLA for first and it's a big game coming up on Friday night under the lights. We really need to play well. Last week when we played them we came out really flat, didn't play our game at all, didn't play the way we know we can. This Friday, I know the guys are getting real pumped up for it and we're going to be ready.'

GH: What did you learn from your matches with UCLA and San Diego State on the road last week that you can take into your meetings with the same two teams this week at home, in particular UCLA because of the loss?
TM: 'The California teams, particularly those two, have a real quick play. They (UCLA) have little, quick tricky guys who can get in behind you and we learned that. We learned what players like to do that, their outside mid likes to come inside. That's how they scored one of their goals on us. We got the feeling of how they play now and can change and do a lot better this Friday at our home field. It's going to be a lot different with our home field crowd. The field is definitely a lot different from what we played on last weekend.'

GH: After losing to UCLA last Friday, how important was it to come back with the 2-1 overtime win at San Diego State?
TM: 'We've already had a couple losses this season so I feel going into postseason it's important to have a couple losses under you just so you know what you need to do and know what you need to change, how you need to play to actually win every time. That was just another example of how we can come back and unite as a team, and play the way we know that we can against San Diego State.'

GH: You will need to play the next few weeks without your senior leader, George John. How will the team make up for that loss?
TM: 'We have such a deep lineup and Taylor Cochran is more than qualified to be playing in place of George. Everyone else is going to have to raise their play and someone is going to have to step up and be a leader out there. I feel like everyone is up for the challenge, and hopefully George can get better soon.'

GH: What has been the key to the defense playing so well this year?
TM: 'Everyone is really getting to know each other. Last year Casey (Cunningham) and I weren't quite as adhesive as we would have liked to be. We didn't really understand each other's play as well. I still had some bad tendencies. I ball-watch a lot and the coaches don't like that, and as a center back you can't be doing that. So this year, I'm just getting better at it. Everyone is just understanding how we play, even with Jamie Finch on the outside since Brad Keller got hurt and Taylor Hoss came out to the right side.'

GH: What strengths do you bring to the team?
TM: 'Physically, my strengths are my heading ability and being able to man-mark one-on-ones. I think that's mainly what I'm good at. I don't try to play too flashy, I try to play as simple as a I can.'

GH: 'You've started most of your freshman and sophomore seasons. Did you think you would make such an immediate impact on the team being so young?
TM: 'Last year I knew I was going to have to fight for my position a lot. It's always a competition to see who you're going to be going against. Coming in as a freshman, I knew players like Ty Harden were just leaving so they were going to be looking for some replacements. I didn't expect to be playing as much as I did, but I was definitely ready to fight for it.'

GH: What led to you decision to choose Washington?
TM: 'I'm from Sammamish and it's real close. I always came over here as a kid and I have sweaters since I was like three of Husky stuff. I've always been coming out to their games and the coaches knew me since I was U-10, U-11.'

GH: What will be the keys to getting this year's squad back to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year?
TM: 'I think drive and effort will be the two things for us. We're tied for first in the Pac-10 right now, and if we keep playing like we are and we beat UCLA it puts us alone in first place. I think the drive for a Pac-10 Championship will put us into a playoff spot. We just need to play like we know we can. If any year, this is the year we have a chance at winning the Pac-10 title.'

GH: Halloween is next weekend and the team has a bye week. Do you have any plans?
TM: 'I live in a house with eight players and we do a raffle of costumes, so everyone takes a name out of a hat and whoever's name they get, they have to choose a costume for them. So it's always really funny seeing who gets who. Everyone in the house got dressed up pretty funny last year so it's an entertaining night.'

GH: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us, Taylor. Good luck this weekend!
TM: 'Thanks!'

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