Oct. 15, 2002
by Lisa Krikava
Although senior Husky defender Aaron Heinzen may not be the flashiest player, he is a key component to the success of the 2002 Washington men's soccer team. Heinzen enters his final college season as a returning starter who is well known for his dedication, outstanding work ethic and positive attitude.
The respect Heinzen receives from his teammates and coaches became evident with his selection as co-captain, along with sophomore C.J. Klaas, for the Huskies in the upcoming 2002 season. As team captain, Heinzen is excited at the opportunity to help guide Washington towards victory with his leadership and experience, qualities honed in three seasons playing for a Husky team that is a consistent force in NCAA soccer.
"It's a nice honor to be captain of the team," Heinzen says. "I think it will be fun. I have the experience and have been around long enough to tell my teammates how it's going to be and what to expect - what to do with the team, school and everything else. It's something I can handle and I am really looking forward to it."
To further hone his playing and leadership abilities, Heinzen spent part of his summer in Colorado, training with the Boulder Rapids of the PDL Summer League, a development squad affiliated with Major League Soccer's Colorado Rapids.
The 2002 season will put those skills to the test, as Washington has set its sights on winning its first NCAA championship. The 2001 season, when the 10th-ranked Huskies fell to chief rival Portland, 1-0, in the second round of the NCAA College Cup, marked Washington's seventh-consecutive visit to the postseason - and seventh-consecutive season without advancing past the second round.
The experience from his junior season has given Heinzen a new perspective on his team's ability to make a run deep into the NCAA tournament.
"We can definitely [win] if we come together as a team," he says. "Our main goal is that we take it one game at a time, especially when we get into the playoffs. Once we get there, it will be important to treat each game like a step on a ladder."
Many of the players taking those steps will be doing so in the Husky purple for the first time. The 2002 team includes 12 freshmen or transfers, with first- or second-year players comprising 60 percent of the roster. As a captain, Heinzen will be counted on to unify a young team. He is confident the Huskies will meld together, however, as the players all share the same goal of working hard and winning.
"A disadvantage for us is that we are young and inexperienced; therefore, so many things will be new for a lot of the guys," he says. "We'll be ready, though. It will be up to the older guys, like myself, to help [the new players] out," he says.
The youthful enthusiasm and energy of new players will be a key factor to the Huskies' success in 2002, but Heinzen emphasizes that it needs to be combined with an effort from the veterans to step up and be leaders. Heinzen has great expectations for what his returning, experienced teammates can bring to the team and is predicting a few of his teammates could be a surprise this year.
"Danny Waltman, who could be our starting keeper, has a lot of talent," he says. "Joe Birklid, a sophomore defender, was a force last year. He was a surprise guy who came out of nowhere and played really well. Seth Marsh, a midfielder who was kind of off-and-on last year, had some really nice plays. If Seth plays with confidence and gives a full-out effort then he could be a real weapon."
Heinzen is also taking time to focus on his own skills and what he can bring to the 2002 squad. While noting his personal mission of trying to score a goal this season, Heinzen takes his captaincy seriously, and is committed to developing the Huskies' young squad into national contenders come playoff time.
"We've got good experience mixed in with the young guys and there's a lot of young guys who are pretty hungry to prove themselves and show how well they can perform," he says. "That will be a big advantage for us."