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11 Questions with Taylor Vancil

Taylor Vancil has played every minute in goal for the U.S. at the 2008 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup, back-stopping the U.S. into the championship game of this inaugural tournament. The Illinois product from the Chicago suburbs sat down with to answer 11 questions, ranging from the USA’s run in this historic competition, to her early high school graduation and why it’s best to have Kate Bennett play midfield. How has the tournament unfolded from your perspective?

Taylor Vancil: “The first game, we were just nervous. As the tournament has gone on, we’ve gotten used to having bigger crowds and communicating more effectively on the field. We’ve gotten sharper and I think we’ve done a pretty good job of being totally into the game mentally for 90 minutes as we know how dangerous it is to take moments off.” What has surprised you most about this tournament?

TV: “Just the quality of every team and how fast the speed of play has been. Every player is a threat. There are not just one or two players per team that can beat you. Also, players are not afraid to shoot from anywhere during this tournament and everyone has to be aware of that on both ends of the field.” You played more than two years of club ball with Alexa Gaul, who is also a goalkeeper on this U-17 WWC squad. How was it playing with two Youth National Team ‘keepers on the same club team?

TV: “It’s tough because you both want to play, but of course, because of the position only one of us could play at a time. But the positives are that we can be very competitive and push each other in club practice as well as National Team training camps, which only helps both of us get better. I think we have a good relationship and want to see each other do well. We’ve both done well enough to get scholarships to college and I think we will be rooting for each other, except if we play against each other, which will happen next fall when we play at Texas.”

Note: Vancil is headed to the University of Louisville while Gaul will play at the University of Texas. You didn’t play high school soccer, opting for club. How did you come to that decision?

TV: “Our club made that decision as a team. We decided that one of our goals was to win a National Championship and we felt not playing high school was the best way to accomplish that goal. Our year-round training was really good and it all paid off when we won Nationals in 2006 and came in second this year.” You play some street hockey, but not in goal. How come goalkeepers always want to score goals?

TV: “A lot people think goalkeepers just sit there all day and never really do anything unless we have to make a big save or get scored on, so sometimes it’s nice to get out of goal and try to score a few myself. And I get to check my brother a few times pretty hard, which is always fun.” What is the most difficult aspect of goalkeeping on the international level?

TV: “Just trying to keep your head in the game, even when you don’t have much to do. Sometimes, you may see the ball a half dozen times during the game, but you have to stay locked in mentally for the entire match because you never know when you will be called upon. I think that’s something that comes with experience and maturity, which all goalkeepers can get as they play more and more games.” You have an English Bulldog named Charlie. Do you two have anything in common?

TV: “Charlie has mad hops, and she can catch a tennis ball in her mouth, but Charlie is too stupid to bring the ball back so I can throw it again. She just runs around and flops down and you can’t get her jaw open to get the ball back, she’s just too strong. So you have to wait until she eventually drops it. So, no, besides the fact that we are both feisty when we are playing, we have nothing in common.” You are graduating from high school right after this trip is over and entering college early in January. How come you decided to do it that way?

TV: “It was just kind of the way things played out. My parents moved to Colorado for work before my senior year and I wanted to finish high school with my friends, so I’ve been living with my next door neighbors. Thanks Bonelli Family! Since I could finish early and I’m really excited about college, I decided to enter in January, get a head start on my academics and participate in spring practice. Go Cards!” What hurts more: getting blasted in the chest with a shot from point blank range or having a forward slide into you cleats first?

TV: “Definitely the cleats first. Neither of them are fun, but the cleats on the thigh are never a good thing. Still, those are the hazards of the position and they happen sometimes, so I’ve got no problem with that.” Goalkeepers are known for being a bit wacky, but you seem sort of, well, normal. Please explain.

TV: “I guess I am pretty normal for a goalkeeper, or at least I like to think I am. I am a little shy until you get to know me, so maybe that plays a part, but maybe I just haven’t got hit in the head with enough soccer balls yet.” Who of the field players on this team do you think would make the best goalkeeper?

TV: “That’s a tough call. Amber Brooks is a beast and would definitely not be afraid of anything. Lexi Harris has a bit of a nasty streak, so she might be good to, but both of them are pretty short. One thing I know for sure is that you don’t want to put Kate Bennett in goal. She would just be laughing and smiling the whole time and would never, ever yell at her defenders, even if she needed to. Then she would apologize for everything and thank everyone afterwards. She’s just the most polite, sweetest girl in the world.”