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The Tiger

Behind the ball with Catrina Atanda

Isabelle Davis, Staff

Tiger Sports (TS): If I didn’t know anything about you coming into this interview, what would you want me to know when I walk away?
Catrina Atanda (CA): I’m sarcastic, that’s one thing. I like a team called Arsenal, it’s my favorite professional soccer team, and they’re based in England. A weird fact is that my right leg is bigger than my left leg. It’s always been that way, it’s weird, not a lot of people know that.
TS: Where do you want to play after you graduate?
CA: I really would like to play anywhere. I mean, I definitely want to play professionally, but as of location I don’t have a preference. Wherever I can get really.
TS: So who or what was your inspiration to play soccer? When did you start?
CA: Well I started when I was three years old and my dad played at UVA and so did my uncle. They both made me grow up playing soccer. I also have an older brother, he’s a year older than me, he went here too, he just graduated in May, and he played soccer. I had to play with his team and the boys since I was three.
TS: With your dad and uncle going to UVA, what was it about Clemson that brought you here?
CA: Actually, I had never even known what Clemson was. I knew they were ACC, obviously, my dad and uncle played against Clemson, but I definitely wanted to go to a school that was decent in soccer and Eddie [Radwanski] was talking about rebuilding the program which is something that I liked. And because my dad and uncle played at UVA, I definitely wanted to play in the ACC too, just keeping it in the family.
TS: What’s one of the best pieces of advice someone has ever given you? Either about soccer or about life in general.
CA: Probably just be myself. Sometimes it’s difficult being a student athlete and going to practice and going to school, you kind of get flustered and lose yourself a little bit so it’s just taking a deep breath and enjoying every moment. It’s what I’ve been taught to do since I was young. So enjoying the moment and being myself are probably the biggest things.
TS: What’s it like being a student-athlete at a school like Clemson where, not only are the athletic expectations high, but the academic expectations as well?
CA: Well, it’s a good balance for sure. A place like Clemson gives so many opportunities to do well in the classroom as well as on the field so I think it is really important. They take it really seriously that we are not just here to be athletes but that the school side is really important. I think all the support we get from the coaching staff, academic staff, all of that just keeps me sane and lets me get what I’m supposed to do done.
TS: Obviously, you guys are off to a great start this season so how confident are you and the team for the rest of this season?
CA: Yeah, we have had a good season so far so I think that good start is giving us momentum going forward. We definitely feel confident in ourselves and every day, every practice, everyone is feeling good about themselves, and we are getting better and growing as a team throughout the season which is what we want. We want our best soccer to be at the end and I think we are well on our way there.
TS: With the success of recent years, is there any added pressure to this team to keep those levels high or are you guys just playing loose and easy?
CA: I think we kind of have some pressure since the program continues to improve everyday but we keep in the back of our minds that we aren’t going to focus too much on what we have to do in the long term and we are just taking it one step at a time and focusing on being in the moment. Every game matters. We have goals, of course, to go as far as we can. Far in the ACC tournament and the NCAA’s and just having that in the back of our minds is good encouragement.
TS: Obviously that’s the goal for the team but do you have any personal goals for this season outside of winning?
CA: Personal goal for me is just to contribute to the game as much as I can. I just want to do what I’m supposed to do as a midfielder and let the rest just take care of itself.
TS: You’ve had tremendous success scoring goals, both this year and last year, what’s that like, being a midfielder, not even a forward? What is it about this team that lets midfielders, and even defenders, get involved in the scoring?
CA: Well it’s definitely a huge credit to my teammates for the goals because I don’t score any of those without them. I think just the connection that we all have and now that I’m a senior and most the team is seniors, we’ve figured each other out pretty much for the most part. So, just trusting each other when we have the ball and stuff like that is really helpful and none of this is possible without them.
TS: Like you said, you’re a senior now. Is there any particular moment or game that stands out to you that you are going to remember 10 years down the road?
CA: Yes. Favorite game probably was Notre Dame last year. We won that one in overtime and it was just a great feeling and I loved it. I will definitely remember that game forever.
TS: You do have a lot of talent, a lot of experience, on this team but you also have some new players. Is there any young player you think the fans should be on the lookout to have a great season and then to carry the reins next season when some of this leadership is gone?
CA: Well definitely the freshmen are really good additions to the team. All of them bring something special in their own ways. Right now, Julie [Mackin], she starts outside mid, she’s one of our freshmen and she’s done really well in games and stepping in as a freshman and starting is not an easy thing to do. I think she’s done a really great job with that. And then the freshmen who come in the game throughout the season, every time they’ve come on the field they’ve made an impact. I think it’s really good the freshmen are feeling confident and feeling like they are a part of this team just as much as the seniors are.
TS: Do you and the other seniors mentor them, help them out? What do you guys do to help them, what kind of involvement do you have with them?
CA: Well we have something in our team called ‘families’ so like mini families of groups of four or five players. Each group has one freshman, at least, so every week we will go out and do something. We’ll go for ice cream one day or we’ll go have dinner somewhere or we’ll just all come together and have a milkshake or do something like that. I think that’s a good way to bring the freshmen into the culture of the team and get them feeling comfortable around us. They all seem to be doing really well here and they love it and we love having them so it’s a good trade off.
TS: What do you hope, 20 years from now, your impact on this program will be?
CA: Well I definitely hope for this year that we can do well in the ACC tournament, maybe be champions, and then do well in the NCAA’s. Go as far as we can would be ideal of course. And then 20 years from now I can say “Hey, we played in those games. We were in the ACC Tournament, we were in the NCAA Tournament” which is not an easy thing to do, not every team gets that opportunity so if I can be a part of that and leave that on this program as it continues to build in the years to come, that would be a great thing. I would be very proud of that.
TS: On the flip side of that, what do you hope to take away from here, either athletically or academically, that you think is going to help you succeed later in life?
CA: Well I think the biggest thing I have taken away from being here, especially coming from New Jersey and being a 12 hour drive away from here, is that you are around different kinds of people with different backgrounds and stuff like that and you learn how to cope with those people, and be friends with those people and stuff like that. I think the big lesson learned is that not everybody is the same which is really cool and I love meeting people all the time. I love meeting different people. That’s something really unique about being here.
TS: Fan support here is widely known, but for someone who isn’t familiar with the program or with soccer in general, what is something you would like them to know?
CA: I’d like them to know that our games are maybe more interesting than they might think. I mean, we do have a support group that comes every single game, which is amazing, and their loyalty is very admirable. I think if someone didn’t know about Clemson at all then they should know there is a good team here playing and we love to play and putting on good performances for anyone that comes to watch.
TS: So for the fans who do show up, what is something you would like to tell them?
CA: I would tell them they are definitely the most passionate and loyal group of people that I might ever encounter and the fact that some of them have come to every single game, like perfect attendance, they aren’t just there to be watching. They are singing or taunting the other team, or encouraging us and I just love those kinds of people and definitely appreciate their support for sure.
TS: You’ve obviously played in some pretty big games here at Clemson. What are those moments like leading up to a kickoff?
CA: It’s kind of exciting because there is so much energy you feel around you. Nerves and excitement, like a mixture of that. But, as soon as the game kicks off and first few minutes passes by, you find your groove of the game.
TS: Is there anything else you would like to add to let people know about you or this team?
CA: Well for this team, I think that we are really focused this year more than ever in my past three years. We are really determined to succeed and play well and I just think that every day that goes by, our team is getting better, and that’s something that we want to continue to happen. We’re going to make a good run for the tournament this year and hopefully make some people proud, and ourselves proud too, because I think we deserve it.

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