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11 Questions With Lauren Fowlkes

Notre Dame’s standout defender Lauren Fowlkes has played two difficult games already in the tournament, but with her parents in the stands, she is ready to lead the back line into the semifinals. Part of a defensive unit that has yet to give up a single goal, Fowlkes will look to her college experience – she led the Fighting Irish in minutes as a freshman in 2007, helping them to the Final Four – entering the knockout round. Fowlkes sat down with ahead of the clash with Costa Rica. How are you feeling after playing in two physical games so far in this tournament?
Lauren Fowlkes: “My body is feeling good. The coaches are giving us enough rest and recovery time, and we’re being smart about everything – the way we’re playing and how we’re handling the tournament overall. There are definitely a few knocks here and there, but every team has that at this point and it’s nothing we can’t handle.”

What is the team’s mentality heading into the semifinals?
LF: “We realize that this is the most important game we’ve had in the tournament so far, and it ultimately decides whether or not we go to the World Cup. I think everyone is really excited and we want to get this game going! But we also know that we need to take it seriously. We’re going to go out there and play our best and let the game take care of itself.”

With the most important games still ahead of you, you still had to play Mexico here in Puebla – what was that experience like?
LF: “It was a very unique and exciting experience for us. The crowd was loud and it was hard to hear your teammates. But days like that are what you play this game for. Games that are exciting with all of those fans there. It amps up the game and makes all the hard work feel worthwhile.”

Have you ever played in an environment like that before?
LF: “Not quite like that. When we played in Chile, we played in front of about 6,000 people, but it just seemed like the fans here were more into it and screaming a lot louder. I think that’s because in Chile we were able to put a few goals away early and I think that quieted the crowd a bit.”

But you have played in big games before – both in high school and during your freshman year at Notre Dame, where you went to the College Cup. How do those compare with big games for the National Team?
LF: “Those games were amazing experiences, but I just feel like the international games have a completely different feel to them. The way other countries go about soccer, the fans are so much more into it in other countries. It just feels like there is a lot more on the line, so I think it’s more of a thrill to play for your country.”

What’s it like to be an athlete at Notre Dame, a University with so much history?
LF: “It’s amazing. I love it there. The whole spirit of the school and the alumni network – I love everything about it. It’s a challenging school academically, but it’s worthwhile. All the students there are great and the alumni support us. It’s really a great place to be.”

Your family is here in Puebla, and they make it from Kansas City to South Bend for a lot of your games. What’s it like to have such a strong support system in place?
LF: “My parents are awesome – they’ve always my No. 1 fans. I can’t remember many games that they’ve missed, so it’s amazing to have them here and I know they’re enjoying it. They have been to almost every game at Notre Dame, and it’s not exactly close to Kansas City, but that’s just who they are and I love them so much for that.”

We know you like Mexican food. Have you been enjoying the food in Puebla?
LF: “I do like Mexican food, but I’ve never had it quite this often! To be honest, it is getting a little repetitive, but Mexican is my favorite so it’s been good to experience the food down here.”

Do you have a favorite Mexican spot in Kansas City?
LF: “Yes - Ponac’s. It’s authentic Mexican food and I’ve been going there as long as I can remember. It’s my Dad’s favorite, too, so it’s one of our favorite spots.”

Growing up in the Midwest, how on Earth did you get into SCUBA diving?
LF: “Well, my family takes a lot of vacations, so that’s where we get into it. My dad is basically obsessed with it, he loves it. I first started when I was 10, and I did the classwork and the pool work in Kansas City, and then when we went to Hawaii I got my open-water certification. I’ve probably gone diving five or six times since then and it’s really neat. We went diving in Belize at this place called The Blue Hole. There were sharks everywhere and a huge cave. I think we went 130 feet down, which is the farthest down I’ve ever gone. It’s very calming under the water.”

You were also a dancer growing up. That’s a lot of activity for a kid!
LF: “I loved to do tons of activities growing up and I always liked dancing. I have two sisters and they both really liked it, too, so it was something that we all did. I’m not totally a tomboy, there is a little bit of girly-girl in me! My mom would put our hair in curlers. She says we asked her to, but I’m not sure about that. Sometimes we would do the famous side-ponytail, too. Jazz was definitely my favorite, and once we danced to the Grease medley, which was probably my favorite routine ever.”