Aug. 21, 2006
BERKELEY, Calif. - Cal junior defender Courtney Hooker was selected a preseason All-American by Soccer Buzz on the heals of earning second-team honors from the women's college soccer Web site after the 2005 season. The product of Woodland Hills, Calif., also was a first-team All-Pac-10 pick last season, helping the Bears rank seventh in the nation in goals-against average (0.475). Cal opens the 2006 season Friday, Aug. 25, against Indiana at the Wisconsin Invitational in Madison, Wis. Hooker sat down with CalBears.com to discuss the upcoming campaign, her athletic family and her interests.
CalBears.com: Who is the best player you've ever had to mark, and do you enjoy the challenge of marking some of the nation's best players?
Hooker: "The best player I have had to mark is Cal's very own Katie Ratican. She is fast with a very deceptive shot, and we are known to really get competitive at practice. She (like our other forwards) challenges me at every practice and encourages me to get better. Therefore, I enjoy marking her and players like her because every time we play against each other, it is a battle and a challenge that feeds my competitive drive by allowing me to pinpoint my weaknesses and thus become a more effective player."
CalBears.com: You're from a very athletic family. How did you get your start playing soccer?
Hooker: "I started playing soccer when I was around five-years old. My dad coached me, and I absolutely loved the game. However, as many children experience, I played a variety of sports competitively (softball, basketball, fencing, running, gymnastics, and dance). I finally chose soccer because (as cheesy as this sounds) I felt a connection with it."
CalBears.com: Who is a better soccer player...you or your twin brother, Anton, who plays at Santa Clara?
Hooker: "Anton has always been a role model to me on and off the field. When we were younger, he would make me play 1v1 with him, and he would never let me give up. Men's soccer is an extremely fast and physical game, and I appreciate him for giving me glimpses of this style. It is hard to compare us because the games are so different. However, overall he definitely would kick my butt."
CalBears.com: What have been the positives and negatives of being a twin?
Hooker: "Anton is one of my best friends. He understands me in a way no one else does. During my childhood, I was practically blinded by the negatives that, in retrospect, were incited by our own immaturity. However, now that I am older, I realize that there really are no negatives."
CalBears.com: Your parents met through sports, correct?
Hooker: "My mother is known as the pioneer of women's fencing. At 17-years old, she was the youngest and first African-American woman to win a national fencing championship. She was also selected to fence on the 1972 Olympic team. She is in the New York University Hall of Fame and accomplished all of this on top of completing medical school. She is truly an amazing woman. My father was also a fencer in college. That is how they met."
CalBears.com: What's the biggest challenge you've had to overcome in your life? Was it the eye surgery you had?
Hooker: "The retinal eye surgery was definitely a difficult task to overcome. Being faced with the possibility of being blind and never playing soccer to me was a wake up call and made me re-appreciate the importance of it in my life."
CalBears.com: What are you known for among your Cal teammates?
Hooker: "I think that I am known for being extremely competitive and goofy. I hate losing, even if it is just a simple passing drill. However, I am always smiling and laugh at myself on a pretty consistent basis."
CalBears.com: "What are your goals for the season personally and for the team?
Hooker: "This season, I would personally like to become a better leader on and off the field and really sustain the fun yet competitive atmosphere our team brings to the field every game. I want to give my complete effort and play any role that will contribute to our team's success. I also want to give the seniors the amazing season they all deserve. Our team is known for overcoming obstacles and I believe that together we can accomplish anything."
CalBears.com: Your media guide bio says you enjoy surfing...are you any good? What are your other interests?
Hooker: "I am not the best surfer in the world, but I enjoy doing it. I am also really interested in dance (specifically hip hop). My fellow teammate, Nkechi Kanu, and I are beginning to practice for our traditional dance-off against teammates Nadia Al-Lami and Katie Ratican, which is always something I enjoy. As the defending champions, we have a lot to prove."
CalBears.com: What have your USA youth national team experiences meant to you, and do you hope to someday make an Olympic or World Cup team?
Hooker: "I felt honored to be part of the U.S. national team. It was exciting to play at such a high level and encouraged me to keep improving in order to compete in such an intense environment. I would love to play on the Olympic or World Cup team someday!"