Rhian Wilkinson (2000-03)
Sept. 21, 2011
We're happy to announce that we are beginning a new weekly feature here at UTLadyVols.com called Tennessee Soccer Alumni Weekly where we'll spotlight former Lady Vol soccer players, asking them a few questions about what they have been doing since college and what their experiences at Rocky Top meant to them. Check back each week throughout the rest of the season to catch up with some outstanding former Lady Vol soccer alumni.
First up in the new feature is Rhian Wilkinson. A native of Baie d'Urfe, Quebec, Canada, Wilkinson has long been a stalwart for the Canadian Women's National Team and left Tennessee following a career that stretched from 2000-03 as UT's all-time point leader with 88 points on 28 goals and a program record 32 assists. Former Lady Vol standout Kylee Rossi broke Wilkinson's career points mark in 2008, but the assist mark still stands.
Questions and Answers with Rhian Wilkinson
1) What have you been doing since leaving Tennessee?
"After graduating in 2005 I headed to Norway to play soccer professionally. I loved living there and spent four years playing for Team Strommen and LSK Kvinner in the city of Lillestrom which is right outside of Oslo. I found playing abroad an enjoyable experience, and it also kept me fit for national team duties. This is now my eighth year with the Canadian National Team, an honour that I can't quite seem to get my head around. I recognize that my soccer success has been the result of many people's hard work, as well as unquestioning and unrelenting belief in me from all quarters. Thank you to all!"
2) What is your fondest memory, while wearing the Tennessee Orange?
"I don't think I will be alone in saying that the program's first ever SEC championship was the highlight of my career. I arrived on campus during Angela Kelly's first year as head coach. I went to the school because I KNEW that this woman was going to put Tennessee on the map, and she did. Ange brought the team a long way in my first three years wearing the orange of the University of Tennessee. I may not have won a national championship ring from my four years as a Lady Volunteer, but I can guarantee that none of the players that have were happier than I was when we won that first SEC tournament (2002)."
3) What is the one lesson/concept you learned at Tennessee that has helped you the most as you've moved into your post-collegiate career?
"Ange was a tough customer when it came to fitness. Every Tuesday she kicked our butts and taught us that even when everything was going wrong out on the field we could always show up fit and ready to give 100% effort. I really took that attitude on-board and am constantly reminding myself that a bad technical game can never be an excuse for not leaving it all out on the field effort-wise. Ange also made sure that we ALWAYS had our feet behind the line when we ran fitness, no cheating allowed. One of my favorite sayings is that there are never any shortcuts in life. This attitude about fitness highlights this. Even now when I do fitness, I always run a little bit extra because I know others will be taking those shortcuts, and that when it comes down to them versus me, that inch will make all the difference."
4) Give your thoughts on what it means to be a part of the Tennessee Soccer program? What it meant to you as a player and what it means to you today?
"I am incredibly proud of my Lady Volunteer past. The four years I spent playing there have given me memories that I know I will always cherish as some of the best of my life. I worked hard as a student and as an athlete, but I did it with great friends around me and loving almost every minute of it. Tuesday's were tough, and I didn't always love those. Everyone around me at Tennessee was pulling for me and the team to succeed, from the equipment manager, to the fantastic medical staff, thank you (athletic trainer) Chris Hoffman and (team physician) Dr. Becky Morgan, to Joan Cronan, the Athletics Director. Everyone went above and beyond to make sure you had everything you needed to be the best possible student during your time in Knoxville as well as a top performing athlete. I continue to wear orange with pride, and I can't wait till my next visit. GO VOLS!"
5) Which Tennessee teammates do you still stay in contact with?
"Unfortunately I have not been able to attend one alumni weekend... YET! Marie-Eve Nault is one of my national teammates, so I am definitely still in touch with her, as well as my old roommates, Nikki Bratta, and Carie and Tracy Swibas. I have also tried to keep up with Jen Grubb, Tara Minnax and a bunch of other amazing teammates through Facebook. It's always embarrassing to admit that you follow friends through their Facebook pages, fact is though that I have loved watching all my old teammates turn into amazing women. I have also enjoyed meeting the next generation of Lady Vol athletes through their photos. In 15 years there is going to be one amazing freshman class coming through!"