Good Sports: Bruin Ball, Soccer Style
Published Oct 1, 2009 8:00 AM
A paradox surrounds UCLA athletics.
The university revels in its record 104 NCAA championships but also reveres John Wooden, who preaches that making the effort to be one's best defines success, not winning one's last game.
UCLA Women's Soccer Coach Jillian Ellis grasps the paradox better than most. In 10 seasons, she's led the Bruins to seven College Cup appearances, including the last six in a row, but she has not won a national title.
"If I'd have won a championship my first Final Four, I don't think I'd be the coach I am today," Ellis says. "Every year I've come away from the College Cup final, I learn something. After last year's loss to Carolina, my daughter came running up to me and asked me, "Mama, did you win the trophy.' And I picked her up and said, 'You're my trophy.'"
Ellis reminds players that life is "about the experiences and finding the other things in life that have great value, like family and friends." Yet she acknowledges that for her players' sake she'd like to — yes — win a title. This year, the Bruins will be among the favorites to do just that. Ellis' 2009 team combines heralded freshmen and a veteran contingent that includes two Olympians, seniors Lauren Cheney and Kara Lang.
Entering her final season, Lang is especially proud of the team's home record, a 55-game unbeaten streak at Drake Stadium. She's also philosophical about the elusive championship.
"I don't think that we can disregard the fact that we have had seven very successful seasons," she says. "It's hard, when you come home having lost, but after that initial disappointment, you can't deny the fact that we've grown as players and grown as a team; that's how success is judged. But we do feel there's something else we have left to do."