Sept. 12, 2005
By Brett Roberts, Sports Information
Why do they keep coming to Iowa City?
Maybe it’s for Iowa’s signature cornfields. Maybe it’s for the rolling hills instead of the arching Rocky Mountains. Maybe it’s for the shorter winters. Maybe it’s none of the above. But, for some reason, soccer players from the state of Colorado keep flocking to the University of Iowa.
Seven players of the 25-member 2005 soccer team are from the “Centennial State.” Two are freshmen, three are sophomores, and two are seniors. After Colorado, the best represented states on the soccer team are Illinois (5), Wisconsin (4), and then Iowa and California (3).
For some of the Colorado natives, Iowa City seemed like a perfect fit during their recruiting process. But others never dreamed they would wind up in Iowa City when they were still playing in high school.
“When I got the call from the assistant coach I really didn’t even know where Iowa was,” admits sophomore defender Megan Love of Highlands Ranch. “But I talked to my mom and decided I would go on a visit. I was pretty convinced this wasn’t where I wanted to go.”
Whitney Strain, a senior midfielder from Englewood, was in the same boat as Love.
“I didn’t think Iowa would be a place for me,” says Strain. “But when I came, I really liked the soccer aspect, and I also liked the school. I liked Iowa City and I liked what it could offer me academically. I just felt it was a good fit.”
The differences between the state of Colorado and Iowa are obvious. There are no majestic mountains, no top-level professional sports teams, and the only way these ladies can go skiing is if they latch up their skis and slide down Burlington Street in January.
But one of the biggest differences is the elevation. Playing at the Iowa City altitude of 670 feet is much easier than playing at 5,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level in Colorado.
“I like that you can breathe better down here,” says freshman defender Katie Smeltzer of Fort Collins.
Strain added that she didn’t mind the altitude much while she was still in high school, but now that she’s going back and forth from Iowa and Colorado, she can feel the difference.
“You adjust to it, but your lungs burn a little bit more back home. You just feel like you have less air to breathe,” says Strain who’s also a team captain.
Both Strain and fellow team captain Katelyn Quinn are from the “Centenial State.”
Like Smeltzer and Strain, Love feels the lack of oxygen in Colorado. But Love also feels there’s a surplus of air in Iowa.
“When you come here it feels like you are getting too much air in your chest. When you first step out you’re like `oh my, I am breathing in everything,'” jokes Love.
The Colorado players feel a special bond between each other. They’re able to connect simply because they are from the same state. Some played with or against each other during high school. Because they share the same home state, players enjoy making friendly wise cracks about each others’ hometowns and alma maters.
“Everyone hates Cherry Creek. That’s where I’m from,” says Strain as Love and Smeltzer laugh. “I’m kind of in the doghouse with that but it’s all fun and games. We just joke around with each other because we know we were either rivals against each other in conferences or we knew of each other because of where we went to school.”
“I think the beauty of Iowa City and the quality of our academic institution is a natural draw for these student-athletes. To have the opportunity to experience a different culture, to experience a different way of life, to experience a different educational system, to be able to play in the Big Ten conference, I think those are awfully nice draws.”
Head Coach Carla Baker
Head Coach Carla Baker says the Iowa program has been fortunate to land seven players from Colorado. Baker has been able to establish a Hawkeye presence in the state by networking with friends and coaches in the Colorado soccer community. She also believes there are many good reasons why students-athletes would want to play soccer in Iowa City.
“I think the beauty of Iowa City and the quality of our academic institution is a natural draw for these student-athletes,” says Baker. “To have the opportunity to experience a different culture, to experience a different way of life, to experience a different educational system, to be able to play in the Big Ten conference, I think those are awfully nice draws.”
The Iowa Soccer Complex also touts one of the finest playing surfaces in the country. For many of the Hawkeye players, it’s the best field they’ve ever played on. Baker says the quality of Hawkeye facilities is an added bonus to attract the high caliber Coloradoans.
“Coming from the West where the density of players is very high, the quality of their play is very high as well,” praises Baker. “I think they come in with a different level of sophistication. I think they help to raise the level of the program – as do all of the players we bring into the program.”
Baker says she hopes her program can continue to have a strong Colorado accent in the seasons to come. In the past few years, players have helped recruit each other because they have been teammates and opponents. She says the program may have established a pipeline that will keep bringing the Colorado talent to Iowa City in the future.
“I think we will always try to recruit there. I’m not saying we’re going to have two to four every year, but there might be one every year,” says the third-year head coach. “They absolutely help recruit each other.” Besides Smeltzer, Strain, and Love, Colorado is represented in Iowa soccer by:
– Katelyn Quinn (Senior), Forward, Highlands Ranch
– Kim Lewis (Sophomore), Defender, Colorado Springs
– Ashley Schlueter (Sophomore), Midfielder, Aurora
– Amanda Bartlett (Freshman), Defender, Fort Collins