LARAMIE, Wyo. -
They are two of five Australian members of the Cowgirl soccer team, and were once teammates on the top soccer club in their home city of Sydney.
Never in their wildest dreams could they have imagined they would be attending college in the United States, let alone Wyoming, and better yet become teammates.
Bass made the long trek to Wyoming first. She had never really thought of coming to the U.S. to attend college and play soccer. Rowntree didn’t see Wyoming in her future either, even though she was born in Florida (father was in the Army), and had entertained thoughts of coming to the United States to go to college.
“I never had planned to go to college over here,” Bass said. “In fact I was going to attend an Australian university and not even play soccer. “But I met the Wyoming coaches when they were in Australia recruiting. I thought, ‘what have I got to lose,’ and decided to give it a go.” Because she played for the Australian Under-19 national team, Bass got to Wyoming when the Cowgirl season was well underway, and redshirted because she would have missed half of the season.
Rowntree’s plan was to go to college in the United States. “I knew it would be a total change and that’s what I wanted. I was used to the big city, the beach and the heat,” she says. “But I wanted to experience something completely different and thought it would be good for me. I was so excited to come. I absolutely love the people here. They are amazing people plus I have mates who will be friends for life. It was very hard leaving the family, but everyone here made that transition easier.”
The two Cowgirls knew each other while playing on Sydney’s top club team, the Western Sydney Wanderers. “Bassey and I played together as far back as New South Wales (the state in which Sydney is located) U-14,” Rowntree says. “We’ve played together and against one another for a long time. But we never thought we would end up here, together, going to college and playing soccer.”
Head Coach Pete Cuadrado makes a recruiting trip twice a year to Australia. While there he attends tournaments and club games evaluating potential Cowgirls. “I spend 14 days a year at two different times,” he says. “It’s a long way to go, but we have been very pleased with the student-athletes we brought to our program.”
Bass and Rowntree are part of an outstanding Cowgirl defense that has tied the school record by posting seven shutouts this season. “It’s trusting people in the back and the keeper,” says Bass who came to UW as a forward and midfielder. “We cover each other, it’s very definitely a team effort.”
Rowntree shares the keeper duties with redshirt freshman Cassidy Entsminger from Las Vegas. “I was a midfielder until I was 12,” says Rowntree. “I didn’t want to be a keeper, actually. But at the time, I was the only one on my team not really scared of the ball so that’s where they put me. I’ve been playing there ever since. My job is to keep the ball out of the back of the net, but we defend from the front all the way to the back.”
What makes a good goal keeper? “In a word, bravery,” says Rowntree. “Everyone is running at you. It’s very mental. One has to stay engaged. You may not touch the ball for a good part of the half, and then all of a sudden, here they come. It’s about handling stress; it’s about good communication; it’s about concentration. I enjoy the challenge, I sure would love to score a goal though. Who doesn’t want to do that? But keeper is my spot, and I enjoy the challenge of it.”
While Rowntree’s parents have not yet been able to come over and watch her play, Bass’ parents have been to Wyoming. “My mother (Margaret) has absolutely fallen in love with Laramie. She always talks about how she loves its character. Although I didn’t know much about the great outdoors being from a big city, I have fallen in love with ‘nature.’ I knew nothing about hiking or things like that. But now I love going to the Snowy Range.”
Both young ladies are nothing short of amazing in the classroom. Bass carries a 3.79 grade-point average in Management Science (College of Business), and Rowntree has a 3.75 in Kinesiology and Health Promotion. Bass wants to do management consultation work when she graduates, helping struggling companies get back on their feet. Rowntree plans to return to her home country and get her master’s in Physical Therapy.
In addition to Bass and Rowntree, there are three other Aussies on the Cowgirl roster, Annika Clayton, a freshman from Sydney, Jessie Gentle, a freshman from Woolgoolga, New South Wales, and Candace Sciberras, a sophomore from Sydney. One would be incorrect in thinking that the five spend all of their time together. “We have a great connection and are good friends,” says Rowntree, “but we don’t live together and spend all of our time together. We are part of a team and enjoy all of our teammates. We didn’t come all the way from Australia to spend our time with each other.”
For obvious reasons the two don’t get back to their native country very often. Both, however, have had the opportunity to return for the holidays in December and January. Bass spent two weeks at home in May and June, while Rowntree has spent one holiday season at home. She spent last summer in Laramie, and says she will go home for Christmas this year. She is definitely looking forward to that. “It’s always great to go home and see the family and friends,” she says. “It’s hard to leave them and come back. But everyone here helps me get settled back in.”
This week the Cowgirls have a pair of important matches closing out their home schedule with Boise State coming to town Friday (3 p.m.) and Utah State on Sunday (1 p.m.). “We knew this season would be a challenge,” says Bass. “We lost a lot of excellent seniors. But I think we are coming along. We are a good, quality team with a bunch of girls who are willing to be coached. I think we have a massive amount of potential. If we follow the game plan, we can compete with anyone.”
As a matter of fact, this team is so young it can’t have a Senior Day for Sunday’s final home game. There are no seniors on the roster!
“Being ‘young’ is not an excuse,” says Rowntree, “because by this time of the year we’ve all had enough time, and played in enough games. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy this year because of the seniors we lost.”
All of the Australian Cowgirls knew their adjustment to the American and college way of life would be challenging. “Everyone here has made it much easier than I thought it would be,” Rowntree says of being in the U.S. “The beauty of it for us is that we have made friends for life. I’m hoping that a lot of our teammates and friends will pay us a visit in Australia sometime. We would love to have them!”