Thompson Still Pitching Shutouts
By Michelle Manson

When soccer goalie Esther Thompson decided she needed to be closer to home, Vanderbilt seemed a natural option. After spending the first two years of her collegiate career at Texas A & M, Thompson transferred to Vanderbilt in order to spend her final two years in a Commodore uniform.

Thompson, a native of Waxhaw, North Carolina (just outside of Charlotte), admitted that the appeal of a more challenging academic environment, along with her familiarity with the Vanderbilt coaching staff, were ultimately what drew her back to the Southeast and to Nashville specifically.

"Vanderbilt is much closer to home so that was a big part of my decision," Thompson said. "I knew the coaching staff and I liked what their goals were for the program and I also liked their style of coaching. Vanderbilt is such a good school academically so I couldn't pass that up. The combination of those two things fit together in my decision to come here."

While she admits that the decision to transfer to another school in the
middle of her career was daunting at first, Thompson said that making the transition from one program and environment to another was not nearly as difficult as she had anticipated. She credits her coaches and
teammates as the reasons why she has been able to adjust to life at
Vanderbilt so quickly.

"It's been pretty easy over all," Thompson said. "The team and coaching
staff have been great. They have been very supportive of my transition all around. I was a little worried about coming into a different environment midway through my career but it's been really easy. My team at A & M was really close-knit and I didn't think I'd be able to find that anywhere else. But the team here is just so great too and I really love playing with them."

In her two seasons at Texas A & M, Thompson posted an incredible 17
shutouts, including a school record 9.5 last year. In 2000, she earned
Freshman All-America honors and helped lead the Aggies to a #7
national ranking by season's end in 2001. Thompson has certainly
carried over her individual success since arriving at Vanderbilt.

So far in 2002, Thompson has recorded back-to-back shutouts against
South Carolina and #21 Tennessee at the beginning of October and has
posted a goals against average of 1.27. While the team's record of 4-8-1
does not reflect what she is used to, Thompson attributes that fact to
playing in a conference with tougher and more equal competition.

"It's definitely two different conferences," Thompson said. "The style of
play is different in both. I feel like the SEC has a lot more quality teams.
The level of play is a lot more equal. The Big 12 is more stacked at the
top where the lower teams are always trying to catch up. In the SEC there is much more equality among the teams throughout the league."

Thompson is hesitant to give her self much individual praise and instead
is quick to credit the members of her support system as the key elements
of the accomplishments she has achieved throughout her career. More
specifically, Thompson credits Commodore Head Coach Ronnie Hill,
who also served as Thompson's club coach in Charlotte, as the catalyst
for her success.

"I don't really look at myself as that top-level of a goalie," Thompson said. "I'm a lot more willing to attribute the success in my career to what God has given me in terms of the opportunities I've had and the people who've been put around me. Ronnie has been so great throughout my career. She always pushed me to play at a higher level so I have had that experience since a young age. I think playing at a higher level definitely makes you better when you come back to play the competition you're used to."

Off the field, Thompson pursues numerous philanthropic hobbies, which
include visits to local schools and hospitals, although she says she has
not had many opportunities to do as much as she would like since
coming to Vanderbilt. She expects that to change soon.

"I really like to do stuff in the community," Thompson said. "I haven't been able to do that much this semester with trying to get adjusted to a new
place, but I love to work at hospitals and go to schools to help with kids. I think it's really important that you give back to society what it has given you."

Although she is not certain if her playing days will continue beyond
graduation, Thompson feels she has prepared herself well enough to
possibly attempt a career lobbying for different organizations. As long as
she is surrounded by plenty of people, Thompson says she will be happy
with whatever the future has in store.

"I'm not really sure where soccer is going to go right now," Thompson
said. "Academics have always been very important to me growing up so
I've always had higher ambitions than just playing soccer. I'm a Political
Science major so I would love to maybe work for organizations and lobby for them. I don't have one set career goal. I just want to do something where I can interact with different types of people."



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