Sept. 30, 2005
The Husky men's soccer team has seen it's share of drama in recent weeks, staging a major comeback win against Air Force and pulling out another victory in the final seconds last weekend against Wisconsin. What all the late game heroics translate into is a 6-1-0 record at the end of Washington's nonconference schedule. The Huskies have a solid blend of veterans and rookies on this year's squad, and freshman Jo Jo Katz has been one of the strongest newcomers. Katz, a native of Mission Viejo, California, assisted on both goals in Washington's overtime thriller versus the Badgers and scored his first career goal in the fourth game of the year against Denver. GoHuskies.com reporter Mike Bruscas recently talked with Katz about the team's recent wins, the start of Pac-10 play, and his international experiences.
GoHuskies.com: You've had quite an exciting start to your career especially with the last three games. Talk about the recent wins.
Jo Jo Katz: "The last couple games have been really exciting. Friday's game against Wisconsin I had a pair of assists and in that game we fought to the end. I love how our team doesn't give up ever. It's just very exciting."
GH: Coach Wurzberger called the 3-2 win over Air Force "One for the ages." What was that comeback like?
JJK: "We were pushing the whole game, we just seemed to not get the luck. We had a couple chances but couldn't finish it. Dean (Wurzberger) just told us to keep fighting, we kept pushing. Once we got one we knew we were going to get two and we were going to get the third one. So as soon as we got the first one we saw this hope, it was actually a gift, it was an own goal. But then we got the second one and that really pumped us up, then the third one we were just fighting for it. We knew we were going to get it by the end of the game."
GH: You had two assists in the Wisconsin win including the game winner with 20 seconds left. What happened on that play?
JJK: "(Brett) Hite had the ball. I was trying to make sure I wasn't going to be offside, and as soon as Hite slipped me the ball I looked up and I saw the goalie coming out and I knew if I hit it back post that one of our guys was going to be there. We had so many guys pushing forward that one of them was just going to tap it in. As soon as we got that goal it was insane, pretty much everybody ran on the field and the excitement was just unbelievable. It's something I've never had before."
GH: How does it help the team to know it can come back and pull out close games?
JJK: "To our team, Dean has talked about how we've experienced playing games very close, we've experienced playing games where we were down and coming back. We've experienced games fighting all the way to the end and scoring in the last 20 seconds. I think we've experienced everything we're going to face this season and if we keep playing like this I think we're going to do very well this year."
GH: How have you adjusted so far to the college game? Has it been what you expected?
JJK: "Coming in it was a little bit of a change. I've always been playing high-level soccer, but definitely the pace has changed, probably for the better. I really like the excitement of getting the ball and going forward. Our team is very good at putting the ball on the ground and attacking. We have very good attacking players."
GH: You scored your first career goal against Denver. Was that exciting or run of the mill for you?
JJK: "My goal this year coming in as a freshman was obviously to play, but also my other goal was to be the first freshman to score, and so when I scored I accomplished my goal this year. It was definitely an achievement of mine."
GH: What is different about the college game?
JJK: "The game is faster. It varies in skill. Our team is very skillful, but there are teams that we've played that aren't very skillful but luckily I came on a side that is very skillful and we're taught to play with the ball on the ground. But it's just fast. Some teams we play like Air Force are just athletic and big guys that just like to run and that's probably the biggest change coming from probably slower play where everybody's average and now you get players that are very good and skillful and they're just big guys."
GH: So far this year goal production has been spread out over the roster. Is that something you guys feel good about or does a main scorer need to step up?
JJK: "Yeah, we've talked about it on our team. I think we're very happy that it's kind of spread out right now, it's good for the fact that everybody's getting in their goals but we know that when it comes to crunch time and people start playing well, I think our forwards are just going to come through and I think by the end of the season we'll see our forwards are picking up most of the goals. But I think it's very good because when a different team tries to say, `Okay, this guy had a couple goals last game,' it's not really like that. You can't really match up on one guy when we're spreading goals all around the field."
GH: Have the veterans on the team given you any advice that really stuck with you?
JJK: "Definitely keep the ball. Nobody doesn't want to have the ball, but the transition's very fast and when we have the ball we're very dangerous so we try to keep it as much as we can and try to be patient and work it in."
GH: Classes started on Wednesday. How was your first day of college?
JJK: "First day of school was definitely good, kind of exciting going to all my classes. I definitely got lost on the campus but that's okay. It was fun. I am part of a FIG (Freshman Interest Group) that's focused on engineering."
GH: Is engineering something you're considering majoring in?
JJK: "Yeah, I'm looking into it. Right now I'm undecided but eventually I'll find my course and follow it."
GH: Most of the team comes from the area. Have they been showing you around and what do you think of the city so far?
JJK: "I've really come to enjoy Seattle. I have to admit I was a little sad leaving California but I definitely like the city. The weather I'm trying to get used to, but yeah I think I've adapted pretty well to it, better than I thought."
GH: The Pac-10 schedule is up next for the team. Are the coaches preparing you any differently for that now?
JJK: "I think we're focusing on every single week since preseason taking all the experiences and trying to put them all in one game. In the Pac-10 we have to take it day by day and learn from our mistakes. We're trying to basically go into the Pac-10 focusing on the mistakes that we made and not make them again because the Pac-10 is very challenging. We're going to get opportunities and we can't afford to go down in games and try to pull out victories with 20 seconds left. The Pac-10 is very difficult and we don't want to put ourselves in that situation."
GH: You have had a lot of international experience playing soccer. Where all have you traveled and what were some of the best experiences?
JJK: "I went to Israel for a month this last summer and played for the Jewish national team. That was a heck of an experience, we played all different countries and actually went to the finals and lost in the finals to Israel's U-23 national team. So we competed with six pros on our team so it was definitely awesome and I was of course the youngest one. Then I went to Germany and tried out for Stuttgart. Their club and their facilities are unbelievable, somewhere that I want to end up after college. I've been to Germany twice. I've been to Costa Rica with the regional team and Costa Rica was awesome. The style of play is a little bit different. They're a little more crafty on the ground, where Germany was a lot like college I believe, very quick with big guys and you've got hustle and jus run."
GH: Was there a favorite spot out of all the places you went?
JJK: "My favorite spot would have to be Stuttgart. It's everybody's dream to play there. Just seeing their practice field and training with their team, going out there and having 300 fans just come to practice and little kids running up to you to get autographs is something everybody dreams of."
GH: What kind of things do you enjoy doing in your free time?
JJK: "My free time, we don't really have much of it, but I like to hang out and be in my dorm. I haven't really got out where I've experienced the city, but back home I like to go to the beach and go surfing and snowboarding, stuff like that."
GH: How is dorm life treating you?
JJK: "Dorm life is not as bad as I thought. I have a good roommate, (freshman teammate) George John, and we've made our room very cozy. My parents come up every weekend we have a game so I see them a bunch and they've definitely helped to make my room very homey."
GH: Finally, how did you get your nickname "Jo Jo"?
JJK: "It's a funny story. When I was younger I had my first coach when I was seven years old playing on an under-10 team and my first coach was English and he couldn't say Jordan very well, so he just decided to give me the nickname Jo Jo. Ever since then my parents have called me that and I actually graduated high school with the name Jo Jo. So it's definitely taken over. I love the name."