University of Wisconsin-Waukesha freshman Emily Savides is the first female to win the Wisconsin Collegiate Conference’s defensive player of the year for soccer.
Savides, a sweeper who was also named first team all-conference for the co-ed league, said she was shocked and honored to win.
“It’s interesting playing on a college level co-ed team as one of the few playing females,” she said. “I knew I could compete with the guys, but sometimes it was hard to keep up, especially with the long-legged, giant forwards I was defending against. I was very surprised and am wondering what all the guys in the conference think of that. I hope they’re not too salty.”
Being the first female to the win the award is awesome, Savides said. “I think more girls should be playing in this co-ed league; it surprised me how few do play,” she said.
The sweeper is often considered to be one of the team’s most athletic and versatile players.
“Being the last line of defense, besides the goalie, the sweeper has to have a good eye on the field so that he/she can let his/her team know their options,” Savides said. “Being able to communicate effectively, having confidence with the ball, and giving his/her team options on the field is what makes a good sweeper, I think.”
Soccer coach Jeff Smerz called it was a tremendous accomplishment for Savides to win the defensive player of the year award.
“It is huge accomplishment for any player to win it but is truly amazing for a female to do it in a co-ed league that is still 90% male dominated,” she said. “Having coached many athletes in many different sports over the last 20 years, I have found myself lucky enough to have worked with many great players, but the truly exceptional athlete only comes around a few times in any coach’s career. I absolutely feel Emily is one of those exceptional athletes. She has skills and a work ethic that is second to none.”
Savides said she felt pressure at times being the only girl on the field and a sweeper. Her teammates and other players, however, never treated her differently or gave her a hard time.
“I did appreciate that,” she said.
Savides has played soccer since she was about five years old, competing on club teams in middle school and at Watertown High School, where she played defense and midfield.
“I love soccer because there are so many dynamics of the game,” she said. “We have to communicate effectively, trust our teammates, be aware of the field and the players, and make smart decisions that hopefully result in our team advancing and scoring goals. I love that soccer is not just a battle of skill, but also a battle of wits, because when you do out smart your opponent – well, it’s very satisfying.”
Unfortunately, the Cougars won’t be able to enjoy the services of Savides next season.
“I will to be transferring to a four-year school and will hopefully be playing with an all-girls team,” she said.
In addition to Savides’ honors, the Cougars received the WCC’s team sportsmanship award and midfielder Michael Kingstad was an all-conference honorable mention.
Smerz, whose team finished 0-6-1, said it is a great honor to win the sportsmanship award. “It was a very difficult season from a win-lose perspective for the team,” he said.
“However, they dedicated themselves every week to stay focused on their goals and always conducted themselves in a manner that would make UW- Waukesha proud. I am very happy that they were recognized for the determined classy athletes that they are.”
Photos by Ken Cavanaugh
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