Oct. 11, 2013
LARAMIE, Wyo. - She was 8,000 miles from home, with a bad case of homesickness, and in just her second day as a Cowgirl soccer player.
A transfer from Queensland, Australia, Lucie McDowell went into then Cowgirl Head Coach Danny Sanchez' office and told him she was going home.
"I was terribly homesick, I'd never seen a dormitory before, I'd had no idea what the cafeteria was all about," McDowell recalls.
"Coach told me to give it a week. He said, `Really think about staying for yourself and for your teammates.' So I did what he said. Three years later, I'm thankful I stayed because I have learned so much about myself. I have really loved my time here, and have benefitted from the experience."
McDowell has certainly made good use of that time in the classroom, and on the soccer pitch. As the Cowgirls ready for a big conference home weekend--New Mexico this afternoon at 3 p.m. and San Diego State Sunday at 1 p.m.-- she leads the team in scoring at 31 points. Her name appears in Wyoming's top-10 career list in goals, assists, points and shots. She has accomplished all that in just two-and-a-half seasons on the UW campus.
A charming young lady with one of those engaging Australian accents, McDowell is very grounded, although one would say her future plans are more interesting than most. She certainly hopes to continue playing soccer on a professional level after graduating this December. But once those days are done she wants to utilize her criminal justice degree by becoming a spy - that's right, like the CIA!
"Everyone sort of smirks when I say that - `Like right, a spy.' But I'm very serious about it," she says.
The odds of getting into that game are probably not very good. Not to worry, Lucie has a backup plan. She's working on a second major in business administration just in case professional soccer, or the spy thing don't work out. She wants to manufacture women's clothing, specifically women's "tights." Not just your run-of-the-mill garment either. But then that wouldn't be Lucie. McDowell-made pants will have all kinds of wild and whimsical prints on them.
"They will be fun, like these that I have on," she says with a big smile, pointing to the ones that adorn her legs.
McDowell was actually born in New South Wales, and at the age of 13 moved to Queensland--one of seven "states" that make up that massive country. She and her family lived on a small island, 10 minutes from one side to the other she says, called Bribie. According to Lucie it's the only island in Australia with a bridge, connecting it to a larger land mass. All the other island on the continent are only accessible by boat. This bridge connects her home with the city of Brisbane. Her mother is a nurse who works in a hospital 40 minutes way from the island, and her dad is retired. While her parents have been to Laramie twice to visit their daughter, she has not been back to her country since coming to UW. She hopes to get home after her winter graduation.
As a youth, Lucie spent most of her days competing in sports. In fact, that's about all she did. She was outstanding in cross country, swimming, basketball and track. But soccer was her best sport.
"I enjoy competing, and I loved all of those sports. But most of them were too individual," she said. "I loved soccer the most because of the team aspect. Training for all of those different sports really old. That's pretty much all I was doing, so I wanted to concentrate on just one. Soccer was an easy choice for me."
McDowell was "discovered" by Wyoming while competing with an Australian national team that was playing in San Diego. That national team was an interesting experience in itself for her since she came to this country without knowing one of her teammates.
"Most of them were from Sydney and I was the only one from Queensland," McDowell said. " That was tough in the beginning, but probably better prepared me for my experience at Wyoming."
When Wyoming offered Lucie a scholarship, she wasn't going to accept it."I was going to come home because my mom was fighting breast cancer," she said. "But she told me to go, follow my dreams and she would be alright. That was very difficult for me to leave, believe me. My mom still has her health battles, but she and dad are coming over her in a couple of weeks, and I can't wait to see them."
What were the biggest adjustments necessary for a young lady from a small island in Australia, living in Laramie?
"Well, I missed the water first and foremost," she says. "Most Australians live next to the water, very few live inland. But I didn't really understand the concept of the college living over here. It was all really foreign to me, including the style of soccer."
Wyoming's soccer program is truly international. Lucie is one of five Australians on the Cowgirl roster. There also are six Canadians.
"Everyone gets along very well together, which is really neat," McDowell says. "I suppose we Australians relate a little more to the Canadians because we're not from the U.S. We like same kind of food which is kind of interesting."
Lucie is very comfortable helping the younger players who are coming to Wyoming from great distances. She understands that they are experiencing the same challenges she did when she left school in Australia to become a Cowgirl.
"Everyone is homesick when they first come to college, especially when they are coming from so far away," McDowell said. "I tell the young kids coming in that I felt the same way. I tell them to just give it a chance and if after some time they feel the same way, then maybe it's not the right place. I'm so proud of myself that I gave it a chance."
Thank goodness Lucie did, for her sake and the Cowgirls'. I know that she'd be the first spy I've ever known. Or would she?
Kevin's Commentary Archive:
July 12, 2011
August 12, 2011
August 31, 2011
November 9, 2011
December 15, 2011
February 15, 2012
July 16, 2012
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August 28, 2013
September 11, 2013
October 11, 2013