January 22, 2003

Determination Drives Wagner to Earn College Soccer's Top Prize

Jan. 10, 2003

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Vicki Wagner recognized something special about her daughter Aly at an early age. When Aly took up juggling as a hobby, she learned to do more than 100 juggles before the age of nine. Before age 11, through dedicated practice, Aly could do 1,500 juggles. She even won a juggling contest.

"Aly has always set goals for herself," said Vicki Wagner. "She has a strong drive to be the best at whatever she's doing."

Aly's drive and ability to juggle a busy schedule have helped her earn the top individual honor in women's college soccer, the 2002 Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy.

Her rise to the top of the college soccer world was not a meteoric one. Aly's trademark determination have helped her overcome obstacles along the way. She has had two major knee injuries during her career - one that forced her to red-shirt her freshman season at Santa Clara. Wagner also has battled through numerous other nagging injuries and persevered.

"Aly will practice to the point of exhaustion," said Vicki Wagner. "She's so competitive and is always willing to put in extra practice to get better. She's had to learn over the years to cut back a little, so she doesn't hurt herself."

It was a busy senior season for Aly. In the midst of leading the Broncos to their second consecutive appearance in the NCAA championship game, the San Jose native missed seven matches for SCU to compete with the U.S. Women's National team. She helped the squad win the Gold Cup title and a berth in next year's Women's World Cup in China.

The skilled midfielder has established a reputation as an assist artist. She led the nation in assists last season with 17 and currently leads the U.S. National Team in assists.

"I really don't remember when I started to take pride in my passing, but I've always enjoyed it," said Wagner, who won three youth club national titles with the Central Valley (Calif.) Mercury, one of the finest youth teams in history. "I played with great players on the youth level and it was fun to get them the ball. Now, with the national team, all of the forwards make such great runs and are so active, it makes it easier for me to find them."

Last season, Wagner scored an amazing 17 goals from midfield and led the Broncos to their first NCAA title. She scored the winning goal in the championship game, a 1-0 victory over perennial power North Carolina, and set up two goals in the 3-2 win over Florida in the semifinal.

This season, Wagner helped lead the Broncos back to the finals, only to fall to Portland in the championship game.

After helping her team win a national championship in 2001 and earning college soccer's top individual prize in 2002, Wagner will take her talents to the professional ranks in 2003. In early February, she will likely be the first player selected in the WUSA draft.

"There aren't many people that doubt she is the best player in college soccer," Santa Clara head coach Jerry Smith told the San Jose Mercury News. "Because she was with the women's national team and because she's played some games on television, she's had the spotlight on her. It gave people a chance to see what we see every week."

Aly's drive to succeed is not limited to the soccer field. She has also excelled in the classroom where she carries a 3.44 GPA in combined sciences. She recently was named to the Verizon Academic All-District team as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).

"Aly is very humble," said Vicki Wagner. "She usually doesn't get too excited when she wins awards, but this one was different. When she called us to tell us that she won the M.A.C. Hermann Trophy, I could hear the excitement in her voice. The family went out to dinner that night to celebrate."

Wagner is building on a tradition of high achievement which has been established for women's soccer at Santa Clara. Brandi Chastain starred at SCU prior to moving on to a successful career with the National squad. Wagner is the second player from SCU to win Player of the Year honors. Mandy Clemens captured the Hermann Trophy and M.A.C. award in 1999. Wagner was finalist for both the M.A.C. and Hermann Awards in 2000 and 2001.

"I take great pride in my soccer game, so the M.A.C. Hermann Award is a great honor," said Wagner.