Huskies alumna Sanders turning heads at college
Vail, CO Colorado
MARYVILLE, Mo. – Well, there she goes again.
Northwest Missouri State junior Kelsey Sanders scored twice Thursday in a 2-0 win against Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association foe Washburn.
Sanders’ ability to score – she had a Battle Mountain-record 69 goals during her career from 2004-07 – surprises no one who’s seen her play, but what she’s doing at Division II Northwest Missouri State is turning eyes.
Sanders has made going from the mountains to the flat Bearcats pitch look effortless. She has three goals and three assists for the Bearcats, who are 8-3-1 and in the thick of the MIAA race.
A native of Vail, 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.”
Welcome to a new level
Sanders has made an impact at Northwest by raising her game.
“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.”
College soccer is different than the 4A Western Slope. 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.”
Different type of snow
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.”
Maggie Corwin is a sophomore at Northwest Missouri State and works for the university’s sports information department.