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11 Questions with Cat Whitehill

THE ALGARVE, Portugal (March 8, 2008) - U.S. defender Cat Whitehill is playing in her eighth Algarve Cup, tied for most on the U.S. roster. She’s coming back from a nasty ankle injury suffered at the Four Nations Tournament in China that kept her out of all three matches and she’s looking to make her 2008 debut at the Algarve Cup. sat down with Cat a few days before the first match against China to chat about her first-ever goal (it came at the Algarve Cup), Olympic qualifying and her favorite subject, SEC football. You injured your ankle in China and didn’t play in any of the games. You are just recently back to almost 100%. Are you ready to go?

Cat Whitehill: “I’m absolutely ready to go. It was hard watching the team play in China, but it was actually a really good learning experience for me because I was able to watch the team, and the defense, from a different perspective. Pia’s philosophy of defense is a bit different as I was able to absorb it first-hand sitting near her on the bench while watching it happen on the field.” You scored your first-ever full international goal at the Algarve Cup on a free-kick against Norway in 2001. What do you remember about that goal?

Cat: “Well, first of all that it was seven Algarves ago! But I remember that the wall encroached before I kicked so the referee had to move them back. The referee moved the wall back 10 yards and for some reason, maybe it’s because I was so young and full of energy and we were playing the defending Olympic champions, that I started running before she blew the whistle. Then right before I kicked it, she blew the whistle and no one was ready! Not the Norway goalkeeper or my teammates, but she counted it! It was an odd first goal to score but certainly memorable.” You recently signed on to be a spokesperson for the Wake County SPCA near your home in the Raleigh-Durham Chapel Hill area. What sort of things will you be doing?

Cat: “First thing is that we are doing this K-9 walk for life which is helping to raise money for the spay and neuter clinic to make sure the population of animals stays at the right levels so they can all have good homes. Then after that, I just want to help in any way possible so that people can enjoy their pets as much as I enjoy my dog Izzy after I saved her from a freeway in 2006.” We know you love animals. If you could legally keep any exotic animal at your house, what would it be?

Cat: “After our last China trip, I would keep a Panda bear. I know that would be politically difficult, but you said any exotic animal. I know I’m taking Leslie Osborne’s favorite animal, but they are just so cute and cuddly. I could grow plenty of bamboo in my backyard.” The team has been playing the American Idol video game over here in Portugal. Considering your known proclivity for singing in you car, have you given it a go?

Cat: “I have given it a go. I sang Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen and after both Randy and Paula rejected me, and Simon called my singing ‘nearly un-human’ I decided to give up the mic. I mean, if Paula rejects you, it’s time to give it up. But I will still sing in my car.” You are known to lay down a crunching tackle. What’s your philosophy on tackling?

Cat: “I guess the thing with tackling is that you definitely have to understand the technique. If you go in certain ways, if you’re too soft or too hard, then you could get injured. But I guess after playing all these years I’ve figure it out. When you go into a big tackle, you feel this sort of exhilaration, because you know you probably just tackled a great, and then you can start the offense. It just feels good.” Your husband Robert is currently in medical school at UNC. When you are at home, do you help him study?

Cat: “Actually, I do help him study. For example, recently he was studying the heart and he had to learn all the different arteries and interactions, so I helped him with terminology, calling out things that he has to identify. It’s one way we can spend time together as we are both so busy. I have a special chair in his study that I sit in when I quiz him and Izzy sits at my feet, but she doesn’t ask any questions.” Can you talk a bit about the challenges that await the U.S. team at Olympic qualifying?

Cat: “First off all, we are playing in Mexico and we know the fans will be rooting hard against us, especially when we play Mexico, which is an environment we don’t often face. Plus, it’s a challenge to implement Pia’s philosophy when it really matters. We will have had the Four Nations Tournament and the Algarve Cup, but this is for a spot in the Olympics. We will take risks and be brave and it will be a lot of fun.” You are one of the highest scoring defenders in U.S. history. You got five goals in 2006, but didn’t get one last year. However, you did set a record for a defender with seven assists in a year. What’s it going to be this year, goals or assists?

Cat: “Maybe a combination? It’s fun doing assists, but coming from defender, it’s really fun to get a goal. Since I don’t get that many, everyone one has been really special.” Talk about the difficulties in a tournament like this where you have to play four games in eight days?

Cat: “It’s definitely hard playing the best competition in the world with only one or two days break in between. But if you know you can do it in the Algarve Cup, having two or three days break during Olympic qualifying and at the Olympics makes it seem easy.” We couldn’t let you go without asking one question about one of your favorite topics, college football. They say in the south that there are two seasons. Football season and Spring Football season. It’s time for Spring football. Is this the year Nick Saban gets it done in Tuscaloosa?

Cat: “You know, in Alabama, they are predicting this will be the year. But I’d have to say that LSU still has the edge, plus Georgia and Florida got incredible recruiting classes and have more experienced quarterbacks. Coach Saban did get what some are saying is the top recruiting class in the country, so good things are coming, but we’ll have to see if he can control his team off the field this year.”