Friday, October 30, 2009

Colleges: Waller's drive pushing Bulls to success

TAMPA – To play college athletics at any level takes a certain amount of competitiveness.

A lot of the time, that competitiveness is either there, or it isn’t. In the case of South Florida’s Angelique Waller, it’s been there from the very start of her Bulls career, and it is now helping fuel the Bulls as they try to spring a big upset on Sunday afternoon at No.6 Notre Dame in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament.

Not that Waller really thinks too much about what she’s doing when she’s out on the pitch.

“Most of the time I’m just thinking of playing my hardest for everyone on my team,” Waller said. “I don’t want to give anyone short of what I have to offer, so I just play hard every single time I’m on the field because I know I have a talent not many people have.”

In games, Waller’s competitiveness can be seen in the way she competes for every 50/50 challenge, and isn’t afraid to take on the responsibility of defending an opponent’s best attacker. But it is practice that her drive really comes though, according to Bulls coach Denise Schilte-Brown.

“A lot of people don’t notice her competitiveness,” Schilte-Brown said. “It’s hard unless you’re out here day-in and day-out to see how competitive she is, but she wants to win, and she uses that innate desire to get it done.”

Waller’s competitiveness has clearly impacted the team as it has gone through the season. A vocal leader, she isn’t afraid of pushing her teammates on in practice if she feels the effort required for success is absent.

“For sure, because when we’re practicing and someone’s not giving everything they’re capable of giving, I’ll get on them and make sure they start working harder,” she said. “I think most people know, especially in practice when they’re on my team, they know I’m going to yell at people if they’re not playing their hardest.”

Waller believes that attitude developed from her time in high school at Stoneman Douglas High in Parkland, Fla. The Eagles have become a women’s soccer powerhouse this decade, winning four consecutive state soccer titles while Waller was on the team, and adding a fifth the season after she graduated.

“I think that’s really where I got so competitive,” Waller said, “because our team wouldn’t sell short of anything but a state championship, so that just grew on me.”

That attitude has rubbed off on her teammates. Bulls goalkeeper Mallori Lofton-Malachi, who has become one of Waller’s best friends on the team, remains impressed with the way Waller approaches the game.

“She’s just an awesome player,” Lofton-Malachi said. “People knock her down, she gets up. She’s an awesome athlete, I don’t think I’ve played with anyone like her before.”

Waller takes the same approach away from the pitch. An engineering major, she enjoys finding new ways to challenge herself physically and mentally. Sunday’s game in South Bend, Ind. against the Fighting Irish is a challenge she is looking forward to.

“I’m really excited,” Waller said. “I really wanted an opportunity to play them this year because I know they’re such a great team. We’ve got to go up there and go for it.”

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