Dec. 19, 2009
TUCSON, Ariz. – Arizona women’s soccer player Renae Cuellar has turned in an impressive performance in her international debut with the Mexican Women’s National Team at the Torneio Internacional Cidade de São Paulo de Futebol Feminino in Brazil.
Cuellar, who has led the Wildcats in goals the last two seasons, was invited to join the senior women’s national team on November 17 when she received a call from head coach Leonardo Cuellar (no relation). A total of 18 players were selected to represent the nation in the international competition.
“I was so happy when I got the call,” Cuellar said. “I was sitting in the computer lab doing homework in McKale Center when I received a phone call from a weird number. Then I recognized the area code and it was the coach telling me I was selected to the team. I was so excited that I instantly went over and talked to my academic advisor and let my coaches know right away.”
Cuellar is one of a handful of collegiate players from the United States that was selected to participate in the tournament with Mexico's senior team. Student-athletes from Stanford, Mississippi State and a former UCLA player are just a few of Cuellar’s teammates in Brazil.
The Mexican National Team lost its opening game to China, 3-0, earlier this month. It then dropped the second match to Brazil, 3-2, before Cuellar helped lead it to a victory over Chile, 6-0, on Wednesday.
Cuellar netted her first two international goals and assisted another, playing a full 90 minutes in her first start against Chile. She debuted by playing 25 minutes in the game against China.
“I have been very happy with the way I have played,” Cuellar said this week. “It was great to win a game like that and be able to contribute. The only way it could have gone better for me was if I got the hat trick.”
Cuellar left the U.S. on December 5 and joined the team for what has been a rigorous schedule of training and matches since. The team typically spends two hours each days training in the morning and then begins film study on opponents with two-hour sessions the day before a match. On the day of a match, the team watches an hour of film before preparing to take the field.
“We wake up for breakfast and then leave for training each day,” Cuellar said. “After training, we come back for lunch and then sometimes spend time in the sauna, spa, cold tub or get massages to help treat our bodies and keep ourselves fresh each day.
“The trainings have been very intense,” she added. “We spend 30 minutes running each day, then begin working on our touches, technique and formations.”
Adjusting to the five-hour time difference was one of the difficult challenges for Cuellar in addition to the competition, but it has been a very rewarding experience thus far.
“I am hoping to gain everything I can here,” Cuellar said. “I want to learn the system and formation and know what I need to work on for the next time I come back to play with the senior team.”
The international experience will be valuable to Cuellar as she returns to the U.S. and continues her development as one of the top collegiate players.
“It has already helped me develop as a soccer player,” she said. “I am a fast learner and I think I have already gained a lot and will continue to work hard while I am here and when I get back home.”
The Mexican National Team completes competition on Sunday with a match against Brazil. Cuellar will return to Tucson on December 21.