At the 2010 WPS draft in January, I was able to talk to Blakely Mattern only a few minutes after the Atlanta Beat selected her with the first pick of the third round. Mattern gave her thoughts on going to the Beat, her new teammates, and what she hopes to contribute to the team this season.
Lauren Green: What are your feelings on going to the Atlanta Beat?
Blakely Mattern: I couldn’t be happier. It’s a program that I’m familiar with, a coaching staff that I know and has seen me play and it’s close to home. I was a homebody, and I’m from South Carolina, so it’s right down the road from me. So, it was kinda what I was hoping for, and I couldn’t be more happy to go to Atlanta.
LG: Atlanta took Tobin Heath with their first overall pick. Are you looking forward to getting to play with her and the other internationals that they have signed over the last couple of weeks?
BM: Yeah, I mean Tobin is an outstanding player, probably one of the best in the country, if not the best player and deserved the number one pick for sure. I’m just really excited to have the opportunity to play with her. I’ve never gotten a chance to do that and I’ve watched her for four years dominate at North Carolina so I’m just really happy she’ll be on my team and am just really excited about the opportunity to get to know her, meet her and enjoy a season with her as a teammate. She’s a great player but also a great person. I can’t wait to meet her more.
LG: What about some of the international signings? They did sign Mexican international Monica Ocampo, and some players from Europe as well in Denmark’s Johanna Rassmussen, [Switzerland international] Ramona Bachmann, and [Japanese international] Mami Yamaguchi all played in the Swedish league so what are your thoughts on that one?
BM: I think that’s awesome. A lot of diversity on the team. Each of them will bring their own different talents and their own different capacities to the team and hopefully we’ll be able to mesh together real well through pre-season camp and into the season. I’m excited to meet new people from different parts of the world and get to know them. And they’ll each, I know are outstanding players and I’m just really excited about the opportunity to meet them and play with them
LG: And what do you think you’ll be able to contribute to the team, especially with it being an expansion side? It’s not like some of the other teams where they already have a core group. Atlanta had to build everything up from the bottom up.
BM: Well I honestly think that it’s a good opportunity for me to come in as a defender and try and lead and direct from the back. I’m just hoping that I can do that and just bring a presence to the back line and hopefully that’s what I can do for Atlanta. If that’s what they’re looking for and that’s why they picked me. I’m just excited to be a part of trying to build a team that wasn’t around last year and to make a name in the WPS and hopefully win a championship this fall.
Two months after draft day I was able to speak with Blakely again, wondering if it really had sunk in just yet.
LG: Has it finally sunk in that you are a professional soccer player?
BM: To tell you the truth, no it hasn’t. I still get that feeling in my stomach when I step on the field where I think to myself, “Am I really here. Am I professional athlete?” To think of all the hard work and hours of training that I put in to get to this point, it is just so unbelievable that I am here. Everyday that I am here I learn something and experience something new and exciting. That being said, everyday I also get more comfortable with my teammates, coaches, and the staff and this whole process in general. But to be honest I have no idea how long it will take to sink in. This is a dream come true for me, everyday being around this team and practicing with the best players in the world. I am constantly reminded of the fact that this is my job and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I am just so blessed to be here and I will remind myself of that and the fact that I am a professional every day, and not waste a single day I am able to be here.
LG: You’re from South Carolina. What is it going to be like being able to play so close to home?
BM : In one word, amazing! Going into this whole experience, I had no idea what to expect and no idea how it would all go and turn out in the end. I honestly just wanted a chance to play and would have given anything or gone anywhere to try. However, I’m not going to lie, in the back of my mind all along I was hoping that I would end up in Atlanta. And when I heard them call my name at the draft, I literally put my head in my hands because I couldn’t believe it. I am only a couple hours from home and Columbia, where I played college soccer at the University of South Carolina, so I have a ton of family and friends close by. It just couldn’t have worked out any better. The fact that the WPS came back my junior year and then that the Beat comes back to Atlanta the year I finish college is pretty incredible. To say that me being here is a perfect situation is really an understatement. I couldn’t be happier where I am and I am so excited about the season and being able to play here.
After we got through the serious questions, I had a few fun fact type questions for the former University of South Carolina product allowing fans to get to know her a little bit more.
If you could play any sport other than soccer, what would it be? Basketball!
Did you watch the WUSA and if so, who was your favorite team? I did watch. My favorite team was actually the Atlanta beat. I knew a couple of people who played on that team – one of the girls from my college who’s obviously older than me and one of my club coaches.
What teammate are you happiest to not have to defend in a game? Ramona [Bachmann] for sure, hands down. Defending her in practice is enough!
What has been your biggest pre-season challenge (going into any season)? This preseason has definitely been the hardest. Getting the transition between college and professional [in terms of] the speed of the game.
Do you have a secret talent and if so, what is it? I don’t really have one – but I can snowboard and I taught myself to juggle, like 3 balls or 3 oranges.
Describe yourself in three words ON the field . Competitive, consistent and tough
Describe yourself in three words OFF the field . Easy-going, joyful and driven
What is your favorite soccer memory? I would have to call a tie! Winning the SEC championship this past fall and then January 15th when I got drafted by Atlanta. It’s definitely a tie between those two.
Do you have any superstitions? No, I actually don’t believe in superstitions, so I don’t have any.
Photo Credit: Courtsey of GoGamecocks.com