Did you know there is a recent World Cup winner living right here in the state of Colorado? Current University of Colorado student, Nikki Marshall, has just returned to her home town of Mead, Colorado after playing in every minute of every game in the victorious US U-20 Women's Team which triumphed against North Korea 1-0 earlier this month in the tournament in Chile. I called her the other day to chat about the experience. One of the highlights for Nikki, apart from obviously winning the event, was the country of Chile and its people. "They were awesome," she said. "They have a real knowledge of soccer culture and we had people at all our games cheering for us. They were so friendly and welcoming." The toughest games were against France and Germany, both of which the US team ended up winning. The only game they lost in pool play was against China where Nikki admitted there was definitely less motivation given the team was already through to the knock-out rounds.
Interestingly, Nikki plays forward for the CU Buffs but at center back for the national team. She scores a hatload of goals for CU but modestly feels that she is not quite at the technical level to play forward for the national team. "My strength is my speed and my vision is getting better," she said. "The intensity at this level is incredible," she added. CU Women's coach, Bill Hempen, agrees that it is Nikki's athleticism, not to say heart, that is her strength and could see her go all the way at a professional and national team level. "They saw enough of her to put her in as a defender at a younger age level," Hempen said of Nikki's invitation to an U-21 national team training camp which she originally attended looking to gain a place as a forward. From there, she was selected in the younger age group as a central defender. "The kid's a winner," Hempen added. "She is like a puppy chasing a frisbee and will always play as hard as she possibly can. I think she has a legitimate shot at competing as a defender at the full national team level."
The 20-year old is a fairly recent convert to soccer having grown up playing baseball and softball as a young kid and only coming to the world's game at around 11 years old. "I just fell in love with it," she said. The CU junior says she would love to turn professional at the end of her student career. Playing with the likes of Abby Wambach would be a dream. For now, the sociology major is concentrating on staying fit and enjoying the Winter surroundings of her native state. "I love the mountains and especially snowboarding," she said. Better watch out for those ACLs. Coach Hempen's rule? If the students know how to ski or board before they come to college, they can enjoy the slopes as much as they like. "You just cannot learn when you get here," he said. A big congratulations to Nikki and the rest of the US team for an amazing achievement. Find out more about the tournament through Nikki's blog which you can access through this link.
Please do keep your eye on my blog because I will have a former Rapids favorite for you just in time for Christmas. All gift wrapped with a nice bow on the top.