Photo by Kat Ignatova
In addition to being one of the most feared female chasers in the game, Sponagle has been crucial behind the scenes for the Bruins. Browne says she "changed UCLA team culture for the better, making the team more inclusive, fun, strategic, and focused on the individual improvement of all players."
On the pitch, Sponagle was described by the Golden Snitchy as being a "huge physical threat." Sponagle gained national attention for taking down USC's August Lürhs at Western Cup III. She was selected to Team USA following her junior year along with fellow UCLA female chaser Vanessa Goh. Throughout the 2012-13 season, Sponagle played a huge part in UCLA's high octane offense. Pool play at World Cup VI was easy for UCLA, as was bracket play up until the Final Four. As Browne points out, UCLA's matchup with Baylor was a tighter game than most remember. When star beater Kara Levis was injured, Sponagle entered the game donning a black headband. Several key beats from Sponagle prevented Baylor from scoring for nearly 6 minutes and her presence continued to be felt for the rest of the game. Browne says of her critical performance in the semifinal, "she once again saved all of us without anybody ever really knowing."
UCLA went on to win that game but lose in the finals to Texas. Looking ahead to the 2013-14 season, it is unclear whether or not Sponagle will join a community team. She currently does not know where she will be following her graduation. Browne added, "It's also unclear whether or not she could bring herself to join a new team, since it is impossible to replace the love that one has for the UCLA team."
Nominated by UCLA keeper Alex Browne. Thank you to Alex for the first nomination, a great nomination of a great player.