Dahlkemper: UCLA's Quiet Leader

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By Haley Hirai

Abby Dahlkemper discovers a new shortcut every day on UCLA's Westwood, Calif., campus. The freshman defender may be new to the school, but she's not new to soccer.

Dahlkemper, California's 2010 Gatorade Girls Soccer Player of the Year and three-time NSCAA Youth All-American, was rated as the No. 18 recruit in the nation by Top Drawer Soccer. As a starting defender on the U-17 Women's National Team, she traveled to Costa Rica for the World Cup qualifiers and went to Spain a few months ago to play with the U-20 National team for the 10 Nations Tournament.

"It's such a big honor. It's so exciting to represent my country. I never take a day for granted," said the native of Menlo Park, Calif. "It makes you a better player going into a different atmosphere and seeing what different countries bring while you have your U.S. badge on your chest."

Dahlkemper, who has been playing soccer since age six, is always trying to better her game. Before every game, she is "super excited" to get on the field and have fun while proving to her coaches why she is there.

"The potential of where I can get to drives me," said Dahlkemper. "You are never done developing. I want to be the best teammate and the best player I can possibly be."

Dahlkemper is the team's "silent leader," according to head coach B.J. Snow, who is in his first season at the helm of the UCLA powerhouse.

"Abby has all the ability in the world, but doesn't always realize she's as good as she really is. She's just a warrior. The ironic thing is that even though she's a freshman, she's our leader in our back line. From day one she was our go-to player," said Snow.

With a class of 13 incoming freshmen, Snow considers himself lucky that they all have formed such natural bonds with each other. The team views freshmen and seniors as equals, and freshmen such as Dahlkemper have played a large role in the team's undefeated season.

Dahlkemper and roommate Caprice Dydasco, both members of UCLA's No.1-ranked 2011 recruiting class, epitomize the chemistry and cohesion of the team.

The UCLA teammates have known each other since they were 14 years old and played together on the U.S. Women's National Team. They always hoped that they would go to school together.

"Abby is the sweetest girl ever," said Dydasco. "She's down to earth, and always a friend I can talk with to express my feelings. On the field, she's so hard-working, really encouraging, and she's always the first to pick a teammate up."

Dahlkemper and Dydasco wanted to be roommates from the moment that they both decided to come to UCLA, according to Snow.

"They're inseparable," he said. "You can always count on them to be laughing and joking about something when they're together."

The team is constantly together, as all the freshmen live in the same dorm on campus, and they are always visiting the older players at their apartments. Freshmen and seniors alike frequently find themselves having dinner and catching a movie in Westwood or Santa Monica.  

Just as Dahlkemper found her way around campus, she will soon find herself leading the UCLA squad for many years to come.

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