April 29, 2005
After recently landing one of the top recruiting classes in the nation, head women's soccer coach Jillian Ellis sat down with uclabruins.com to talk about her latest recruiting haul, the current state of the program and her long-term goals at UCLA. (2005 Schedule Also Released).
This past January you signed what many people consider to be one of the top two recruiting classes in the country. Are these players going to be able to come in and fill the void after losing six seniors from a year ago?
Well, we have a large class coming in which I believe will give us a lot more depth at every position and the competitiveness that these players will bring to our practices should be tremendous. Many of these recruits are coming in with a wealth of experience, having played at the regional and national levels for quite some time. This group is going to step in and contribute right away and we are going to be stronger across the board. We also get back Stacy Lindstrom and Stephanie Kron from the U-19s, so I am hopeful this season will be very exciting.
What is your recruiting philosophy and how important is your relationship with players during the recruiting process?
I think the rapport that a player and a coach are able to establish during the recruiting process becomes a big part of their decision. I'm very aware that a lot of players, who choose to come to UCLA, are committing because they feel that I can help develop them to reach their personal goals as well as their collegiate goals.
With the addition of this class, what do you feel are the long-term goals for this program?
I'm excited about the long-term strength of this program. I'm committed to being here. I get asked frequently if I'm leaving and there is a lot of speculation that I am because of my ties to the National Team program. But I believe that I have the best college coaching position in the country. My goal from the day I was brought here was to bring the program to national prominence and win a national championship. It's definitely a work in progress, but I think with the class we brought in this year, along with the recruiting potential of UCLA, I'd have to say that the future looks very bright.
How has the program evolved since you first arrived back in 1999?
Initially, a real selling point of this program was telling players that UCLA had all of the resources in place to be a top-5 program. I believed that from the beginning and that's one of the reasons I came here. I think letting recruits know that they had an opportunity to be a part of something new and special at UCLA was definitely an attractive quality. It's changed in the last five or six years because I feel now, we are no longer in a building process. We have established ourselves as a soccer power and it's about getting players who want to be a part of this environment. Players who come here want to be challenged and stretched and bring the first national championship to UCLA.
Iris Mora, who is a member of the Mexican National Team, will be a senior this year and you just signed Kara Lang, a prominent Canadian National Team player. Can UCLA fans expect to see more international players in the future?
Definitely. Kara Lang is one of the premier players in the world in her age group. Brining in the best players regardless of geography is only going to strengthen our program as a whole. Being at UCLA allows me to recruit internationally due to the prominence of the school. My primary goal in recruiting has always been to get the best players in this country and locally from California.
Attracting the top talent comes at a price sometimes when these players are called up to represent their countries at the national team level. What is your philosophy on giving players time off for national team commitments?
Being a part of The National Team Program myself, I'm very supportive of players, not only just in our country but other countries as well, who get this opportunity. I think there is no greater honor than wearing your national team jersey and playing in a world event. I will continue to be supportive of that and open to players meeting those national team commitments. It's definitely a challenge. It was somewhat of a burden last year not having two of our top midfielders here (Lindstrom and Kron were at the U-19 World Championships in Thailand). But at the end of the day, a player has to look back on their experience and feel that they've been supported in every aspect of their life and their career.
Is the ultimate goal of this program to win a national championship?
Yes. It's definitely a goal of ours and like I said before, the opportunity to be in that position year in and year out is something that we sell to student-athletes. However, we've been a top-5 or top-10 program for a few years now and I think sustaining a level of consistency is something we strive to achieve each year more than anything else. Keeping UCLA in the upper echelon of collegiate programs has always been a top-priority.