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Jan. 4, 2008

Erin Sullivan finished an outstanding career as a midfielder for the USC women’s soccer team, helping lead the Gamecocks to the NCAA Tournament in 2007. She was named an Academic All-American and finished her senior season ranked in the Top 10 in the SEC five categories: goals, assists, points, shots on goal and game-winning goals. An Augusta, Ga., native, Sullivan met with to talk about her four seasons for the Garnet and Black. You’ve been a consistent performer at USC all four years, but you had a breakout season this year. What do you attribute to the spike in your play this season – I know that Coach Smith said that she wanted you to play more selfish this year.

Erin Sullivan: To be honest, I think it was just that I knew it was my last year. I knew that it would be the last time I played so all summer my mentality was, `You know you’ve been working hard the last three years so just go out and have fun.’ I really didn’t worry about my play as much as I did about doing what I wanted to do and training how I wanted to train. It was more about just letting go of the technical stuff and just focusing on what I used to do in high school and club soccer and go out there and have fun.

Do you think that those first three years you thought about the game too much?

I think so. That’s the problem with a lot of players in college. You get here and it’s a different level of competition so you feel you have to play a certain way. If you just play how you usually do, it should work out.

Last season (2006) you became the fourth player in USC history to record a hat trick. Do you remember that game?

It was the Citadel on a rainy day. I love rainy days! I don’t like to play in the sun, so maybe that was a factor. It was one of our opening games and we went out there with the mentality to have fun. To be honest, the third goal was luck; I scored with my shoulder. I can’t really say that I had the best game.

What thoughts went through your head as you got the third goal? Did you realize that you recorded the hat trick?

It was fun and exciting. It was fun to see the reaction from the bench and everyone was having fun.


Sullivan (13) is congratulated after scoring against UNC



This season you scored the first goal in the North Carolina game, which ended up being the game-winning goal. With all of the history at North Carolina and at Fetzer Field, how did it feel to not only score there but to score the winning goal?

I really couldn’t believe it was happening. I remember heading it but I don’t necessarily remember it going in. Afterwards I remember not being able to walk because there were so many people around me jumping up and down. Since it was so early in the game we were all kind of shocked and immediately went into the mode that `we have to win now.’ It was exciting with so many people there at their home field.

Did you get any congratulatory calls after that game?

Girls that graduated in the past called and I had voicemails on my phone. People just couldn’t believe it. In the next week our coaches would tell us that random coaches from around the country would send emails or call, so it was a good experience because you don’t realize that it’s on a national scale until people that you haven’t known call to congratulate you.

Later at the UCF Tournament you earned All-Tournament honors and the team peaked to No. 7 in the national polls with an 8-1 start. What was the experience like to be a part of a team that started so well?

Before we lost to Clemson we were one of four teams that had an undefeated streak to begin the season. I knew we had the players that if we are in the right spots at the right times, we could accomplish many things. We’ve known that since our freshman year. For it to finally be recognized nationally was a touch of relief to get that recognition that we knew we should have received. Things were finally falling into our favor rather than against us like in seasons before.

You finished the season ranked in the top 10 in the conference in points, goals, assists, shots on goal and game winning goals. Coming into the season did you think that you would have a year like this where you excelled in so many aspects?

I think it’s the confidence going in as a senior that it’s a level playing field (for you). You should be at a level above the players coming in because you have three years of experience and there’s no one above you. I think it’s the confidence going into the games that helped with the results this season.

What do you think is the best aspect of your game?

I think I see the game well. My size and speed kind of deter my game, but I think I can read the game pretty well to try to be in position, create plays and build the game when there’s not many options. I think I’m more of a tactical player.

A lot of first happened this season. What has it meant to you to be a part of this team this season that has done so well.

It’s been really fun this year. The girls, we all clicked playing together. Personality-wise it’s always been good but I think finally on the field we figured out finally what works for us. It was great to see the younger girls get so excited about it and for us to know that if this is where they started then they have so much farther that they can go. It’s a new beginning for this program.

At the end of the season you were honored as an Academic All-American. What did that award mean to you to know that it acknowledges not only your athletics but your academics as well?

That was more exciting for me than anything because school is a big aspect here. I love soccer and I love playing, but I really focused on school these last three years. It was nice to realize that I was doing well outside of soccer.

How would you describe your overall experience as South Carolina the past four years?

There were times when our team didn’t do as well and we had to push through that, so it’s been a strengthening experience for me in terms of getting past us not doing well our first two years here and then these last two years we became the team that we should have been the entire time. It’s been a great experience. I met a lot of girls that will be my friends for the rest of my life. It’s definitely an experience that you can’t trade.

What was your most memorable game?

I’d have to say UNC because we built it up all spring and summer. It’s what we worked for and to realize that goal, especially at their place with so many fans there, that was just something that I know all of us will remember.

What will you miss most about playing soccer?

I will miss the girls more than anything. If practices were fun or we all got through a season it’s because we all were together and getting through it with our friends. I’ll miss playing with people that I enjoy. It was being with them and going through it with them that was the best.

What are your post-graduation plans?

I’m graduating in May with a degree in advertising and a minor in business. Right now, contrary to what my parents want, I think I’m going to take time off and relax. I will probably stay around Columbia for a little bit, but I want to take the time to travel. Probably within the next two years, hopefully I’ll be in portfolio school, but for now I’ll just take time off.