Senior Candace West is a soft-spoken leader for the Commodore women's soccer team. The left-footed West hails from Doraville, Ga.--a northeast suburb of Atlanta--and spent seven weeks in Germany this summer through the Vanderbilt in Berlin program. West discusses her family, her professional career goals and the most memorable goals of her soccer career....
How old were you when you first started playing soccer?
"I was 4 years old. The name of our team was the Lions. I played with my younger brother [Hans]. I was usually the only girl on the team and I remember my dad was a coach. My dad had played in high school. Both he and my mom are pretty athletic. She's into staying fit--bike-riding, running, all that stuff."
Are your siblings athletic as well?
"All of us have played soccer, at least at one point. My older brother [Ahmad] played soccer in college [at Morehouse]. He was the one who built my foundation growing up, like my basic foot skills. He would always drag me out after school and make me work on things. The whole family is pretty athletic."
Did you play any other sports?
"I played football for a year in high school, kicking for Lakeside. I'm the type of person where, if you say, `oh, you can't do that,' then I want to set out to prove you wrong. At P.E. one today, somebody saw me kick a ball and they said, `oh, you should go out for the football team; just joking around, you could never do that.' So I decided I was going to do it. We had three kickers. One was the punter and he also did kickoffs--my mom would not let me do that because you can get tackled. I mainly kicked extra points and closer field goals. There was another kicker that was more powerful than I was but he was less accurate."
Who do you remember looking up to when you were young?
"Mia Hamm was one of my big role models. Tiffeny Milbrett, too, because she was so short (5-2). I watched both of them play on the national team. And Charmaine Hooper--she was attacker for the Atlanta Beat and for the Canadian National Team. She used to train me for a little while and she was one of my big role models."
How do you approach a free kick?
"The first thing I do is decide if I'm going to cross it to one of my teammates or shoot. Whichever I choose, I pick a spot--just a quick look, then I look down at the ball--and I think to myself, `you practice this, you're in a game, it's just gonna come to you,' and then I just don't worry about it and kick it. Usually it goes where I want it to."
Who has been your favorite professor at Vanderbilt?
"Dr. Peggy [Setje-Eilers]. She came with us to Berlin this summer. She's just really bubbly and she always makes classes fun. It was the first time I had studied the history of Germany in German. I'm already pretty bad at history, so learning it in a different language was even tougher for me. But she made it really fun."
What did you take away from your experience in Germany?
"My grandmother grew up in Germany. My dad was born here in the states, but his father was in the Army so he grew up partially in Germany and partially in the United States. It was kind of funny because when I was growing up I was really close to my grandmother, and when I went over there and saw a lot of the habits that Germans have, I thought, `oh, my grandmother does this all the time. now it makes sense to me.' I got to go there and see my roots, see where my grandmother was born. She was born in Berlin a little before the World War II started and they had to move, but the house where they lived wasn't destroyed during the war so I got to see it, which was pretty cool."
What's the best goal you've ever scored?
"The one I'm really proud of was last year against Alabama where I scored off a corner kick, where I bent it in. Before that in the Georgia game I had so many shots I was trying to bend in. That was my goal throughout the season, and I finally did it."
How about the most meaningful goal?
"Even though we lost the game... last year, when we went to the SECs and played Florida, we were down, 3-0. When I scored that initial goal, I felt like that was pretty meaningful because it gave us hope. We ended up coming back and tying to game 3-3. Granted, we ended up losing, but it gave us that drive and that chance."
What are your career goals?
"I want to be a nurse practitioner. I'm not exactly sure what specialty. I don't have a nursing degree, but I do want to help people, and I'm more of a science person, so I figured nursing was a good way to put those two things together.
"Before that, I'd like to take maybe a year off and just keep playing soccer. It would be great if I had an opportunity to play overseas, maybe in Germany. I'm really willing to play anywhere that I have the opportunity, because I'm not really ready to stop playing yet. You live once, and once I start getting into the real world I don't think I'll be able to come back to soccer. So I'd rather do it now, play as much as I can, and then get into the real world."