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Pivnik gearing up for first season of WUSA

By Jared Green Daily Planet Staff
Friday February 16, 2001

Right now, Tami Pivnik is working as a temp in a San Francisco office, just one of many recent college graduates killing time until they find their true calling. But unlike most of the others, Pivnik won’t be spending much more time in an office anytime soon. She will soon be in the training camp of the Bay Area CyberRays, one of the teams in the fledgling Women’s United Soccer Association. 

Pivnik graduated from Cal in December with a degree in American studies after playing five seasons for the women’s soccer team. A midfielder as a freshman, Pivnik suffered an ankle injury that wiped out most of her 1997 season. Upon her return, head coach Kevin Boyd made her a defender. She started every game for the Bears at sweeper in both 1999 and 2000, helping the Bears to a 17-3-1 record and the second round of the NCAA Tournament in her final season. 

Pivnik has garnered several post-season honors, including being named third-team All-American by Soccer Buzz and second-team All-Pac-10. She was also named to All-Pac-10 academic teams in her final two seasons. 

Pivnik was selected by the CyberRays, who will play in San Jose’s Spartan Stadium, with the 31st pick of the supplemental collegiate draft two weeks ago. She heads off to the first training camp on March 1. 


Daily Planet: So how does it feel to be a professional athlete? 

Tami Pivnik: It’s kind of weird. I don’t feel any different yet, but I think once I go down there and play with the foreign players and the big-timers, I think I might feel a little different about it. But it feels great to get to do what you love to do for a living. 


DP: Will you find it intimidating to be playing with and against the best players in the world? 

TP: Honestly, not that much. I’ve played with a lot of the American players before. I think the foreign players will be a little strange at first, just breaking down the language and cultural barriers. I’m really excited to be on a team with two Brazilians (national team members Katia and Sissi). I know the women aren’t where the men are, but I’ve been a Brazil fan since I was a little girl, so I’m really excited about that. Obviously it’s a new level, so a lot of it will be confidence going in. But I think I can handle it, and I’m looking forward to it. 


DP: Did you ever picture yourself playing professionally when you came to Cal? 

TP: It really only became a valid opportunity in 1999. For the last two years, we’ve been making good progress, so me having a fifth year, it was perfect timing to go from the end of my career at Cal to go directly into the professional ranks. It worked out really well, but obviously I had no clue this would happen.  

I was asked by a public relations guy for the CyberRays right when I got drafted if this has been my dream, and I said “honestly, no. It’d be nice to say I’m living my dream, but it never really was.” 

Soccer’s always been a dream for me. I’ve had a great time, met some great people, traveled the world. It’s been amazing, and it’s what I love to do. 


DP: What would you be doing if the WUSA didn’t exist? 

TP: I don’t know; probably figuring out my life. I mean, I’m not sure, I’ve got such diverse interests. I could have gone straight into the Peace Corps, I could have done Teach for America (a government-sponsored inner-city teaching program). It would have probably been something like that right off the bat. But I didn’t really prepare for things like that because I knew this was coming. 


DP: Are you glad you were drafted by the local team? 

TP: I originally hoped to go to the east coast. But just the number of calls and e-mails that have come in about people being so excited about being able to see me play in the Bay Area, I can’t complain about having that kind of support. 


DP: Do you expect there to be a big Cal presence at some home games? 

TP: (Laughs) They better come out! I’m sure some of them will come to some games. 


DP: After your injury, did you ever consider giving up on playing? 

TP: I was talked to very seriously two summers ago about re-evaluating my goals physically. I was working with a physical therapist, and when he did a complete evaluation, they didn’t like so much how little cartilage I had in my knee. So he was just kind of giving me the big picture instead of short-term, which you concentrate on when you have a serious injury. You set certain goals for yourself to see if you can get through them, and he wanted to give me a broader view to let me know where I was at. And I thought about it for about an evening (laughs). But I woke up in the morning and said, “Yeah, I’m gonna play. If you won’t help me, I’ll find someone who will.” So he worked with me, and I got back on the field the next year. 


DP: What would you have done if you hadn’t been drafted? 

TP: Trying to figure out who I had to call the next day and where I was going to go try out this weekend. I was getting a little bit worried, because Maite (Zabala, former Cal goalie, picked No. 9 by the Atlanta Beat) and I were sitting there and I was a little surprised by some of the picks that went before me. We were sitting there like ‘I don’t know…’ But then Tony (DiCicco, the league’s acting commissioner) got up there and started talking about Cal Berkeley, and we looked at each other and knew I was the only one left, so I knew I was getting picked then. 


DP: Okay, the WUSA championship comes down to you vs. Maite on a penalty kick. Who wins? 

TP: Oh, me of course! (Laughs) I mean, hands down. I haven’t missed a penalty kick in years. Me! What am I supposed to say?