By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
COLUMBUS, Ga. – Anne Ogundele’s prowess as a goalkeeper was so highly regarded that it earned her the nickname “Spiderwoman.”
The former Kentucky standout’s intensity, athleticism and agility made her one of the top goalkeepers in Southeastern Conference history, especially during her senior season of 2006.
“From what I understand, I was a really mean player when the whistle blew,” Ogundele joked. “I was very assertive, liked to control of things, communicated a lot but was pretty aggressive. Towards the end of my career, I was nicknamed Spiderwoman. I joke about that, but I really used my agility and reaction time to my strength. I worked a lot on that during the off-seasons and that helped propel me forward into a really successful goalkeeper.”
It was during Ogundele’s senior campaign that she shined the brightest. She earned All-America honors from several national organizations and was also a CoSIDA Academic All-District selection.
And on one very special week, her talent took center stage.
In 2006, Kentucky won just two of its first five Southeastern Conference matches, but came on strong down the stretch to finish with a 6-3-2 tally in league play. The Wildcats entered the annual SEC Tournament in Orange Beach, Ala., as the event’s No. 2 seed behind perennial power Florida.
“It was the last weekend of the season and we were either in sixth or seventh place in the standings with one game left to play,” former Kentucky head coach Warren Lipka said. “We had to go back to Arkansas and play a makeup game from bad weather earlier in the season. We ended up scoring in the last two minutes of the game and went from seventh to second with the win. We had a lot of momentum going into the tournament and we had a very good team.”
While Ogundele was undoubtedly Kentucky’s standout player, the Wildcats weren’t what you would consider a star-studded squad. Still, they were able to accomplish considerable achievements due to their work as a team.
“We didn’t necessarily have the big-name players that a lot of teams in the league had,” said Lipka, the 2006 SEC Coach of the Year. “We had a lot of women who worked very hard together and they made it happen by cohesiveness. Anne was the anchor.”
Ogundele, a first-team All-SEC selection that season who would finish the year with a school-record 112 saves and a goals against average of 0.60 in 2006, elevated her game to even a higher level that particular week.
The Wildcats downed Ole Miss 3-2 in the quarterfinals before posting back-to-back shutouts against No. 11 Tennessee and No. 16 Florida in the semifinal and final rounds, respectively.
Kentucky captured just the second SEC Tournament title in program history, having also won in 1995. Fittingly Ogundele was named the event’s Most Valuable Player. She finished with a career-high 13 saves in the championship match and 27 total saves on the weekend.
“It was one of the greatest runs we ever put together,” Lipka said. “Without Anne, we would not have gone all the way through. She was the MVP of the tournament and had some incredible saves against Florida in the final. It was like a fairy-tale ending for her.”
For Ogundele, who had seen ups and downs in Kentucky’s program during the five years she spent in Lexington, that SEC Tournament her senior season felt like the culmination of all her hard work.
“That was really an amazing time and an amazing experience,” Ogundele said. “I think that was the first year I felt the girls around me believed we could actually be in and win a tournament like that, because the SEC is so competitive. It really was, although I was named the MVP, a team effort from the back up to the front. Everyone stayed really focused throughout the whole tournament and helped us be successful at that time.”
Ogundele’s 14 shutouts during her senior year still rank tied for second-most in SEC history in a single season and her 2,245 minutes in 2006 still rank tied for fourth in league annals. The Wildcats went on to make their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1999 that season.
But it wasn’t just Ogundele’s successes on the field that made her one of the best representatives of the Kentucky soccer program, it was her well-rounded approach to being a student-athlete. Ogundele was thrice named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll and earned NSCAA Academic All-America honors in 2006.
“Anne was a special student-athlete,” Lipka said. “She was successful not only on the field but in the classroom. She was a great student-athlete on and off the field. Along with what she did in the classroom, she really had an outstanding senior year. She put it all together.”
In fact, according to Ogundele, it was the fact that she had to balance so many different responsibilities that she was able to do it all at such a high level.
“Actually, playing a collegiate sport helps with balance because you realize that you really don’t have time to waste because things are always going on,” Ogundele said. “It teaches you discipline and how to prioritize.”
Just as Ogundele’s hard work on the field paid off in a thrilling end to her career at the SEC Tournament, her efforts in the classroom have paid dividends, as she now enjoys a successful career as a physical therapist in Columbus, Ga. Ogundele also is preparing for her wedding, which is slated for early October.
“I’ve been down here for about three years,” Ogundele said. “I really focused on my work after soccer, after hanging up my cleats. My major when I first started was pre-physical therapy, so I knew pretty early on what I wanted to do. I finished my bachelor’s in health sciences and got a doctorate in physical therapy.
“When the recruiting process was going on, I was seen by a lot of different schools at showcases, but after I sustained an injury to my right ring finger, the recruiting offers started dropping off when I wasn’t playing,” Ogundele continued. “Kentucky took a chance on me and I was lucky to be looked at by a school like that, and one that also had a good physical therapy program.”
Ogundele has found that many of the same traits that made her successful as a student-athlete are equally as beneficial in the work world.
“Discipline and prioritizing puts you in contact with a lot of great people who share the same work-ethic as you,” she said. “I’m in a career where teamwork is vital and I deal with a lot of different personalities. UK offered a positive environment, especially with the coaching that I had. Jerrod Roh was my goalkeeper coach at the time. He and Warren Lipka were very supportive of me both on the field and off the field.”
While Ogundele’s potential in her career is endless, her stamp on the Kentucky soccer program will be forever solidified.
“Anne was one of the best shot blockers I ever coached, and I’ve coached a few,” Lipka said. “She was just a natural leader her senior year; she developed into a person with a lot of confidence and got to where we needed her to be. I am happy that she was a part of our program and that I got to see her develop as she did.”