Sara Islas giving Colorado Mesa a spark heading into RMAC tourney
Sara Islas is one of the smallest players on the soccer field, but she’s not about to back down from anyone.
The 5-foot-2 senior midfielder for Colorado Mesa University throws her body into the game with such energy that she can’t help but pick up the rest of her teammates.
“She’s such a workhorse, the energy she brings to the field,” CMU coach Erin Sharpe said. “On the few occasions we do rest her or sit her for a little bit, it’s a little more of a struggle to keep the same level of energy, but she steps back on the field she brings back that spark.”
Islas has scored four goals this season, tied for the team lead with Daniela Salinas, and leads the Mavericks (8-6-4, 7-3-4 RMAC) into their first-round RMAC tournament game at 5 this evening at Walker Field against Metro State (12-5-1, 8-5-1).
“I think it’s just my desire and passion to get the ball,” Islas said. “I guess it naturally reflects to the other players and they see I’m trying to hard, so my teammates have my back and they try to get the ball for our team as well.”
The Mavericks’ 3-2 victory over CU-Colorado Springs on Sunday clinched the No. 4 seed in the playoffs and an all-important first-round home game.
“We’re undefeated at home in conference play,” Sharpe said. “But man, we made it way too close for comfort.”
Colorado Mesa has only lost once at Walker Field this season, in September to Grand Canyon University.
Once RMAC play began, the Mavericks won four of seven home games and tied the other three, including a scoreless draw with then-No. 7 Fort Lewis College.
“We do get good support from our fans, and that’s awesome,” Islas said. “I know some of these nights have been really cold and it’s awesome to see them in the stands.
“We practice here day in and day out, we know what this turf is like, we know the dimensions. This is our home, we want to represent Colorado Mesa well.”
The Mavericks beat Metro 3-0 in Denver when the Roadrunners were ranked 13th in the nation. That win gave Mesa the tiebreaker over Metro after both teams finished with 25 points in RMAC play.
“It was a battle until the 90th minute,” Sharpe said. “They are very, very talented. We just put together a phenomenal game on both sides and I know they’ll be out for revenge.”
Islas said the Mavericks are intent on repeating that performance tonight.
“I think we can,” she said. “This far into the season with everything we’ve been through, the losses, the ties, all of our overtimes, including our wins, they’ve all been exciting. We’ve been able to turn things around and it would be an even bigger rush to beat them this time around.”
Islas’ competitive fire sends her flying into tackles and jockeying for the ball against bigger players.
“I think the less fear you have going into the tackles, the hits, the more your body adapts and starts to not feel the pain any more,” the 101-pound Islas said. “I think maybe being so small, I’m more aware of my body, how I need to move it, how I need to dodge it, how I need to fall.
“I just know how to avoid certain situations that are going to put my body at risk. I do feel it after the game and the next day or two, but I mean, I love it. I love this sport and that’s what comes with it.”
Her aggressive nature does lead her to drawing fouls and an occasional yellow card.
“Sometimes it amazes me when the ref calls it on me and the girl is twice my size,” she said, laughing. “I’m like, ‘Ref, c’mon! You really think I did that?’ “
Gwerder improving: Jeremy Gwerder, a junior defender for the CMU men’s soccer team, has been released from the hospital with a severe concussion after a frightening injury Sunday.
Gwerder was knocked unconscious after he and a Regis University player had a head-to-head collision going for a ball in the air.
“The CT scans showed a couple three spots on his brain with a little bleeding, but they did scans throughout the night and there was no progression with the spots,” CMU coach Josh Pittman said Tuesday.
“The doctors said he’s going to be fine. He can’t have any contact for a few months. That was the worst thing I’ve ever seen on a soccer field.”