FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – With 23 returning players and 10 of 11 2009 starters returning this season, freshman Alana D'Onofrio, as well as the seven other freshmen on the NAU roster, expected to learn from their veteran teammates without seeing significant playing time. When NAU senior defender Rebekah Schmidt missed the first four games of the season and then reinjured her knee in the sixth game of the year, D'Onofrio was pressed into action. The Pleasanton, Calif. native has started eight games and appeared in all-10 contests, playing all but five minutes at left back in the last-four Lumberjack games (all shutouts).
Filling in for Schmidt on a veteran back line alongside seniors Kristi Andreassen and Tori Howe and junior Georgia Foltz, D'Onofrio has given the Lumberjacks the same defensive intensity and cohesiveness that they have had in winning consecutive Big Sky Championships over the last-two seasons. D'Onofrio talked about her transition to college soccer and how she has been able to become a vital part of the 2010 Lumberjacks.
Q: How have you had to adapt to college life both on and off the field?
A: The transition was tough at first getting used to balancing soccer and school. The speed of play and the physicality of the game are so much different from high school to college, but being able to play in a lot of games has made the transition easier.
Q: Has it been tough filling in on a defensive unit that has been together for so long?
A: They have made it really easy for me to get into that role. They are really good with communication and they're older so they like helping me out so that our backline will be good.
Q: Has Rebekah (Schmidt) helped you in trying to fill her role?
A: Anytime I have a question about something she'll answer it for me and give me a confidence talk, which has really helped me out.
Q: Are there any players on the team that you've connected with the most?
A: I lived with Kristi (Andreassen) over the summer and she is so nice. She helped me get adjusted and introduce me to things here. Playing next to Georgia (Foltz) on the field has really helped me a lot as well.
Q: Is there pressure being the only freshman starter on a veteran team?
A: Yeah I definitely feel a lot of pressure but I get a lot of support from the girls so it makes it a lot easier.
Q: Does the success of the team over the last two years add pressure?
A: There is a lot of pressure to continue the success that the team has had. I just have to be confident in myself and confident in our team to do well.
Q: How much did you expect to play this year?
A: I didn't have the expectation that I would play a lot. I wanted to do well and I wanted to be playing a lot, but I wasn't going to come in cocky feeling like I should be out there.
Q: Why did you choose NAU?
A: The school is great, I love the campus, and Flagstaff is a great city. Andre seemed like a great coach, and he is, and I really liked the girls on the team when I came to visit.
Q: Coming from California, are you excited for your first Flagstaff winter?
A: I am. I like snow, but I don't know yet if I'll like living in it. We'll see...I think it will be fun!
Q: Any special pregame or in-game rituals?
A: I chew gum in all my games. I guess that's kind of a ritual!
Q: After helping the team post four straight shutouts, do you feel ready for Big Sky play?
A: I think we are really confident. It was great playing against a lot of good teams in the beginning of the season to give us that experience before going into conference. I feel really confident that we can go all the way and win another conference title.