This week the Virginia women’s soccer participates in the Round of 16 of the NCAA Championships for the fifth consecutive season and will play at UCLA Friday night. Virginiasports.com caught up with junior defender Kika Toulouse to look back at the opening weekend of the tournament and to look ahead at Friday’s match.
Question: This week you play at UCLA in the Round of 16. After the struggles in the regular season where there was a chance you might not even make the NCAA Tournament, how does it feel to advance to the third round?
Toulouse: It means a lot to our team. Deep down I think we knew we always had the talent to be able to perform well in the tournament like the teams in the past. We thought once we were in the tournament that we had the ability to go far. It means a lot, but right now we are just focusing on our game at UCLA on Friday and what we need to do to advance another round.
Question: In the second round game on Sunday, you were down 2-0 at the half at Penn State and rallied for six goals in the second half to win 6-2. Have you ever been a part of a game with a scoring spree like that, with six goals in 20 minutes?
Toulouse: I thought it was kind of similar to our game last year against North Carolina when they scored four goals on us in a 10-minute span. But being on the side that is scoring the goals in a game like that felt really good. And to do it in the NCAA Tournament, where if we don’t come back our season is over, that was the icing on the cake. The fact that we were able to not only comeback, but to do it like that, was an awesome feeling.
Question: One of the biggest questions before the season was how the new defense was going to come together. After an adjustment period early in the season, you have posted six shutouts in the last seven games. How has the defense evolved to where it is now?
Toulouse: I think it has just been working through that learning curve. The hard work and willingness to learn and help each other out has really paid off. (Goalkeeper) Chantel (Jones) has been a huge part of it. She has been a great leader in the back, both vocally and with her presence on the field. Each game we feel like we are a little bit better and that has taken us to the point we are at right now.
Question: Personally, how did your transition go this season, moving from being a forward to a defender?
Toulouse: It has been tough. I have just tried to do whatever I can to help the team. I feel like if I am doing that, then I am doing my job for us to be successful.
Question: This is the second time in the past three seasons you are playing at UCLA in the Round of 16. Two years ago, you lost 2-1 in overtime. With so many first-years and second-years on this team that weren’t here for that game, what are you and the other upperclassmen telling them about that experience?
Toulouse: We have just tried to tell them to go out there and be confident. It is always tough when you have to go cross country, but we went to Arizona earlier this year, so it isn’t completely new. We feel like as long as we play the way that we are capable of playing, we will be fine.