Senior midfielder Amanda Wenzel was eight when she had a hematoma. Due to it being trauma caused, she only assumes it was from heading soccer balls. Her entire life Wenzel has had a passion for the sport, but on that trip to the hospital, to care for the hematoma, she also found her calling in life.
“I just remember being in the hospital and not even being afraid of it,” Wenzel said. “Because I was there and those people were there to help and comfort me. That’s what actually inspired me to be a nurse.”
Not only a star on the pitch, Wenzel exceeds in academics at Colorado Mesa University’s nursing program. A challenge? Yes, but Wenzel is not one to shy away from challenges considering she has been the key to CMU’s women’s soccer program’s rise.
A Newcastle, Colo. native, Wenzel was always around the game. Her mom and aunts played soccer and passed the sport down to her. Over time she learned to love the game for herself. She played it through high school, then came the big decision of where to go for school.
“Well I only live an hour away from here, so Mesa’s always been a name that I’ve heard,” Wenzel said. “When I initially started applying to school I knew that I wanted to be at D2 and I knew that I wanted to be a nurse. So I was looking at all of these different programs.”
She chose Colorado Mesa University, but at one point Wenzel’s time at the school seemed unlikely.
“The coach here during my recruitment process quit,” Wenzel said. “So I actually had no school to go to after I committed. But Jason [Clare] the coach now called me and said ‘I still want you.’ And I said okay I like Jason, I like the way he coaches. So Mesa was my top choice and they have the best nursing program in Colorado right now so that was a big plus. It’s convenient my parent’s come to the games.”
Convenient as it was off the pitch, on the pitch Wenzel’s choice was anything but. She came to a team that had a losing record the year prior. Her first year playing the program the team earned a single win on the season, differing to the level of success Wenzel had years prior.
“When I played at Coal Ridge [High School] we were number 1 in the league,” Wenzel said. “Coming from a team that won almost every game to this team, it was very hard for me because I’m very emotional and passionate about the game. I think the thing that just kept me going is that I felt I could make a change in the program. I played every game as a freshman, so I felt if I kept going and kept trying that I could help.”
Wenzel didn’t care she was a freshman, she was going to help change the program around. She set goals for her team, and became a leader on the field, leading the team in points her freshman year with five thanks to her two goals and her assist.
Year two was an improvement for both Wenzel and the program. One of her two goals on the year was a game winner to take down Colorado Christian University in one of the team’s four victories. Still, with an 4-10-4 record in 2015, there was work to be done. Wenzel took it upon herself to make changes happen and started working with Head coach Jason Clare to improve the team.
“I actually met Jason when I was in high school,” Wenzel said. “I was like ‘oh cool, he’s got an English accent.’ That was my first impression of him. I think that me and Jason have the relationship where we tell each other what’s wrong and we’ll be able to make it work. I can tell him that I don’t like the way we’re doing this and then he’ll say okay let’s figure it out. I think that’s a rare relationship we can have with players and coaches.”
After two years of work, the breakthrough came in 2016. The team won nine games, more than doubling their total from the previous two years. Wenzel was tied for the team lead with ten points after netting four goals and two assists. For the first time in her tenure at CMU Wenzel was able to play in a RMAC playoff game as well.
“I love that,” Wenzel said. “Because I love watching my team be like we’re sixth in the RMAC. That’s so cool to see everyone so excited because I’ve been at the bottom and I’ve seen sadness. To watch my team be so excited about something like that it’s awesome. I could cry about it.”
In her senior year, Wenzel has taken a different role a team that has more impact players than ever before in the program, a role she very much enjoys.
“It’s really fun,” Wenzel said. “It’s so fun because now with my position on the team I’m becoming one of the older ones. I’m still playing and I’m still interacting with a game, but I’m taking more of an observation role. Because I’m watching my freshmen and my sophomores grow into these wonderful players.”
While being the face of the program’s franchise Wenzel also worked on getting her degree in nursing one of the toughest majors to complete. She shows the same dedication to her academics that she does to her sport. Wenzel was inducted into the program on her first attempt and has been juggling all her responsibilities.
“It’s just been a whirlwind since then,” Wenzel said. “I know that Jason has been very, very helpful. He’s like if you can’t make something, let me know and we’ll work through it. You are a student-athlete. Student comes first. I will support you in anything that you need. Just having that and having the team overall support me. Days when I’m at the hospital, and it’s a stressful day not only physically, but emotionally, because I’m caring for patients. I can come to the field and my team is there. They’re like here we got you. We’ll pick you up, we’ll carry you on. That’s just something that I always needed.”
Wenzel is now a nurse and hopes to go into pediatrics in the future, inspired by the nurses who took care of her when she was in the hospital. Her time at school may be coming to an end, but the impact she has had on CMU and the women’s soccer program is massive for the future.