WCC Defenders of the Week? Waves Women’s Soccer Has a Pair

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Waves defender Trinity Watson

A year ago, as the world was coming to grips with the danger the novel coronavirus’ spread, Pepperdine Waves women’s soccer player Zoe Clevely, 22, was in the midst of her own ordeal. 

The goalkeeper’s sophomore season ended four games into the Waves’ 2019 campaign because of an ACL tear in her right knee—in the spring, she was on the road to recovery.

“It was the hardest thing I ever had to do,” Clevely, a redshirt junior, said. “Oddly enough, I’m glad it happened because I learned so much about myself throughout the process, more about who I am without soccer and what soccer means to me and a new appreciation of the sport.”

One of Clevely’s teammates, Trinity Watson, 20, who recovered from two ACL injuries in high school, reached out to the goalie to let her know she can overcome the setback. 

“Knowing what I went through and knowing how hard it was, physically and mentally, it only makes me want to help others,” said Watson, a junior defender. “It felt right to me to reach out and see how she [was] doing and let her know I am here for her.”

Clevely said Watson’s pair of ACL recoveries and standout play for Pepperdine were a good example of perseverance. 

“I said, ‘Wow. She has done it a couple of times, of course I can do it. Look at her now. She is so awesome,’” Clevely said. “I was as positive as I could be. I know wallowing about my injury wasn’t going to help me.” 

Now, the two Waves are back-to-back West Coast Conference Defensive Players of the Week. Clevely received the honor the first week of the month, while Watson earned the status last week and again this Tuesday. 

Clevely netted the award on March 2, three days after she made the play of the game in Pepperdine’s 1-0 road triumph over Saint Mary’s. Pepperdine’s final line of defense dived right to stop a Saint Mary’s penalty kick with the score knotted at zero in the 58th minute. Pepperdine freshman forward Tori Waldeck scored the winning goal off a pass from junior forward Leyla McFarland around two minutes after Clevely’s big stop. 

Clevely called winning the award awesome.

“It was a huge accomplishment for me to be able to make the play I made and be the player I have always worked toward, especially after my injury,” she said. “I was happy I was able to make that play for my team.” 

Not only did Watson’s defensive play in Pepperdine’s 1-0 win over the University of San Francisco on March 6 help her gain the defender of the week award three days later, but the former forward’s offensive skill played a foot in it as well. 

Watson, who switched to center back her sophomore season, took the ball in her defensive end in the contest’s 69th minute and dribbled onto USF’s portion of the pitch. She then passed the ball ahead to senior forward Joelle Anderson, who kicked in the winning goal. 

Watson is grateful for the recognition. 

“I’m honored to represent Pepperdine soccer,” she said. “It’s a good feeling—I’m still kind of speechless.” 

Clevely said Watson could be defender of the week every week. 

“She is so strong back there,” Clevely said. “She is always knocking players off the ball.”

The goalie’s words proved to be prophetic. Two days after she uttered them in an interview, Watson was named the conference’s defensive player of the week again. She also was named to the Top Drawer Soccer Team of the Week for the second time this season.

Watson, an All-WCC first teamer and United Soccer Coaches All-West Region second teamer in 2019, scored two of Pepperdine’s five first half-goals in a two-minute span in their 6-1 victory over Pacific on March 13.

Watson, an All-WCC first teamer and United Soccer Coaches All-West Region second teamer in 2019, had another noteworthy performance in her team’s 6-1 victory over Pacific on March 13. She scored two of Pepperdine’s five first half goals in a two-minute span. 

Watson said she was simply playing for her team. 

“I was playing really freely and just doing what I love,” she said. “I just love the game. That’s my mentality.” 

Watson’s ACL injuries limited her to only one season of varsity soccer in high school. She rang up 17 goals that year. Now, she wants to impact the game on offense and defense. 

“Being able to impact both sides is a good thing,” she said. “That’s just part of my process in becoming a great player.”

Clevely aims to be best teammate possible and doing that includes constantly thinking about ways an offensive player could break through the Waves’ stout defense and fire a kick at the goal. 

“I think of everything that can go wrong,” Clevely revealed. “I adjust my teammates in what I’m envisioning could go wrong. You have to trust your defenders and think that way to always be ready—always set, always prepared.”

Clevely’s crunch time stop was one of two saves in the win over Saint Mary’s. She said her penalty kick save changed her team’s energy.

“I was able to make the save and the team was able to rally and get done what needed to get done,” she said. 

Senior defender Emily Sample was named to Top Drawer Soccer’s national team of the week in wake of the win over Saint Mary’s, also. 

Seniors Madi Cook, Aliyah Satterfield and Calista Reyes also scored in the win over Pacific, as did freshman Tori Waldeck. 

Pepperdine coach Tim Ward said in statement after the Pacific triumph that he  didn’t remember the last time the Waves started a game that well and efficiently. 

“It was a very special first-half performance that lays the marker down for the rest of the season,” he said.

Pepperdine, ranked 25th nationally, owns a 4-2 record heading into their match against Portland on Friday.

The Waves opened the season on Feb. 7 with a loss to UCLA. The squad downed San Diego five days later before losing to Stanford on Feb. 19. The victory over Saint Mary’s came nine days later and the squad’s win over San Francisco was on the first Saturday of March.  

Clevely said her and Watson’s winning the defensive player of the week award reveals how strong Pepperdine’s defense is.

“The whole team is so dialed in in how we pressure and how we defend,” she said. “If you can’t get scored on, you aren’t going to lose. Our defense is our offense.”

Watson said the defensive recognition shows how hard the squad works. She added that she could see more Pepperdine players garnering defensive honors this season.

“We really do give everything we have every single training session,” she said. “Everyone is all in.”