Sept. 30, 2009
From the Mountains to Bearcat Pitch
By Maggie Corwin '12
Going from mountain ski slopes to the flat Bearcat Pitch sounds like a challenge, but junior forward Kelsey Sanders makes it look effortless. In her freshman year as a Bearcat, Sanders played in all 18 games and scored the team's first goal of the season against St Cloud State. Last season, she played in 19 games and had three goals, two of which were game-winning, and one assist.
A native of Vail, Colo., Sanders was destined to be a Bearcat. Growing up, she played on rival teams with Northwest's head soccer coach Tracy Hoza's sister-in-law.
"My sister-in-law gave me Kelsey's name and number," said Hoza. "I saw she was very fast and she had lots of goals in high school. The rest is Bearcat history."
Sanders has certainly made an impact at Northwest and has shown improvement in her years here.
"I worked on my fitness a lot this summer," said Sanders. "I got in better shape and even played on a co-ed team which bumped up the intensity a lot because I had to shoot against guys."
"Playing in college is tough and the pace of the game is a lot different," said Hoza. "The MIAA is a physical league but Kelsey has adapted well over the last two years. Her movement, quickness, footwork and striking have all improved. She came into this preseason on fire."
A player needs to come into college with a high spirit. The competition is more fierce and the homework load nearly doubles. Not only is the player getting used to life away from home, but also a higher paced game and a lot of travel time.
"Playing in college is way more fun," said Sanders. "Everything is a lot more intense. The feeling you get when you score or win is upped to a whole other level."
During the summer and before the preseason, athletes are expected to stay in training, but it's not exactly all work and no play.
"We have lifting and practicing," said Sanders, "but we also have a few tournaments and leagues where we play high school teams and clubs. We do stuff to help out in the community, which is nice because we stay involved."
Moving 700 miles from home can be a big and difficult change.
"It's really hard," said Sanders. "I feel it more when I come out for preseason because I can't go home until Christmas. My parents come out for four games which help with being far away. I always love it when they come out to visit me."
Being far from family and friends is not the only hard adjustment. The climate change is also dramatic.
"I miss the mountains," said Sanders, "and having no humidity; the humidity here is killer."
Adjusting to a different climate is especially hard on athletes who are not used to training in high heat and humidity. Their bodies can take awhile to adjust and become used to the extra strain. And while Midwest summers are intense, the winters prove to be just as extreme.
"There are no mountains around here to ski on, except for a couple of bunny slopes," said Sanders. "And I definitely prefer snowflakes to ice flakes. The mountains in Colorado are more snow than ice."
Though the adjustment is rough, Sanders has made the effort and braved Maryville's high humidity and frigid winters to play a game she loves. Friends, family and teammates all have been able to watch her improve.
"You know," said Hoza. "Once you accomplish something, you feel that you are able to do anything."
Sanders enters tomorrow's home game with Central Missouri having started eight of nine games this season. Her three assists are tied for the team lead. She also scored the gamewinner in a 2-1 win against St. Mary's in early September.
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