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Center Circle Extra: Eleven Questions with Amy LePeilbet

Anyone who knows the U.S. defender knows that she is extremely soft-spoken.  Under “quiet” in the dictionary is LePeilbet’s U.S. Soccer headshot, but she plays big on the soccer field.  The former U.S. U-21 star made her full National Team debut on Friday vs. Sweden and got her to say more than just a few words for a Q & A session about her first cap, becoming a Sun Devil and coming oh-so-close to scoring in her debut. You played your first-ever match for the full National Team against Sweden yesterday.  How was the experience?
Amy LePeilbet: It was just amazing to get out there on the field with these players.  I have to admit I was very nervous. All the reserves were warming up by the bench and when (assistant coach Phil Wheddon) called my name, my heart started pumping really hard. He asked me if I was ready, and I’ll I could say was “yeah.” Then I went over to (U.S. head coach April Heinrichs) to get my sub card.  I’m pretty sure April said something to me, but I don’t remember because the nerves were kicking in and the adrenalin was really flowing.

.com: You played 21 minutes next to Joy Fawcett, who is the most capped defender in the history of women’s soccer.  How was that experience?
AL: It’s just an honor to get to play a game with Joy. She made me more comfortable just talking to me, which I really needed. I felt a little uneasy when I first got in there because I just couldn’t calm down, but Joy talked me through it and by the end of the game I think I felt more relaxed.”\

.com: You almost even scored a goal, getting your head on a corner kick.  Describe that play.
AL: We had gone over set plays this week, so I knew what my runs were, but when I got on the field, I went totally blank on the first corner kick we got.  Luckily, I remembered after a few seconds and got in position. We had a few corners before the one I got my head on, so I had my run down by that time. I had the far post run and Kristine Lilly found the back post with a great cross. I saw it coming and it was in my area, so I just went all out for it. The defender went up for it too, and I think I went over the top of her, but she still managed to body me a little bit so I couldn’t get a solid head on it.”

.com: You played 29 matches with the U.S. U-21s over the past two years, and started on two Nordic Cup championship teams.  What are the differences that you have experienced between the U-21s and the full team?
AL: The speed of play is much quicker and everyone is much more physical. The skill level is much higher. I mean, everything is just a notch higher, but it’s fun to test yourself and stretch yourself every day.

.com: You have spent not quite four years in Tempe, Arizona, attending Arizona State. What are the differences between the desert of the southwest United States and Shenzhen, China?
AL: One thing is you just can’t get a good burrito over here, so that’s the first thing I’m going to do when I get back. Not only that, but I haven’t seen a Taco Bell either. That’s my favorite. It’s also so much more crowded and the air quality is just not good. The main thing is that there are open spaces in Tempe, and here you just feel cramped all the time by the big buildings.

.com: So how exactly to you pronounce LePeilbet?
AL: “Well, I say La-PELL-bet.  But my dad says LEE-Pell-bet, which is probably the proper way. So, I guess you can pronounce it however you want.  My family is not picky.”

.com: You grew up in suburban Chicago in Crystal Lake, Illinois. How did a Midwest girl end up at Arizona State?
AL: I joined the Sparta club team my junior year of high school. It was my first elite club team and we won the State Cup that year. The coach at Arizona State saw me at Regionals and started recruiting me. I had a good amount of schools recruiting me, but most of them were all local schools. It was exciting to get noticed by a Pac-10 school, and I loved my visit there. At the time, my family was moving to Reno, Nevada, so it kind of made sense to go west as well. Some people say I went to get away from the cold, but that’s not true. I actually don’t mind cold weather. Although now, I probably would freeze solid if I went back to Crystal Lake.

Ed. Note: We agree that she would probably freeze. As of noon CT on Saturday, January 31, 2004, it was 5 degrees Fahrenheit in Crystal Lake.

.com: You played basketball as well as soccer for the Prairie Ridge High School Wolves.  What were your strengths on the court and do you miss playing hoops?
AL: I loved playing basketball. I was a point guard and I was basically a “drive and dish” player. I wasn’t the greatest shooter, and I liked to pass and play defense.

Ed. Note: When she graduated, LePeilbet held her high school career record for goals and assists in soccer and season record for assists and steals in basketball.

.com: You are 21 years old and starting playing soccer when you were eight years old, in other words, when Julie Foudy had already been on the National Team for three years.  Did you have any favorite women’s soccer players when you were growing up?
AL: I had a bunch of National Team posters hanging on my walls, but I don’t think I’ll say of who, because I might end up rooming with one of them on one of these trips.

.com: You’ve temporarily put school on hold to train for a spot on the Olympic Team, which means you won’t be seeing your friends and teammates back at Arizona State much this year.  Do you have any words for your “home girls”?
AL: “I guess just that I miss them and that I am so thankful for all their support because I wouldn’t be here without them. I guess I want to say hi to my coach, Ray Leone as well, because he would be mad if I didn’t, and he’s be so influential in my soccer career.”

.com: So…why are you so quiet?
AL: I don’t think I’m shy really, I’m just really quiet around people I don’t know, and especially all these players because I’ve looked up to them for so long.  Hopefully, I’ll start talking more once I get to know everyone better.