Back On The Farm
Sept. 30, 2005
Junior Rachel Buehler is back in Cardinal after taking the 2004 season to play abroad.
Looking at her play and her camaraderie with her teammates, you would never know that junior Rachel Buehler completely missed the 2004 season. Now playing at defensive central midfielder, Buehler has started in all seven games this season, assisting Leah Tapscott's goal to tie the score in the 89th minute versus Illinois on September 9.
Buehler was absent last year as she traveled abroad with the U.S. Under-19 Team in Thailand, but it wasn't an easy decision to leave her squad at Stanford.
'I felt like I was letting the team down,' reflects Buehler. 'I wish I could have been there more. Each year is a different experience and I do feel like I missed out.'
The Stanford women advanced to the second round of the NCAA Championship in 2004, losing to Santa Clara, 1-0, in double overtime. The squad boasted two All-Americans in Nicole Barnhart and Hayley Hunt and finished the season 13-6-2.
Buehler does not regret her decision to play with the U-19 team, though.
'It was a great experience playing with the U-19 girls and playing for our country,' says Buehler. 'The experience is something I will always cherish. The team felt like a family. It was a tough decision, but it was easier since I got to redshirt.'
The U.S. Under-19 Team spent a month touring Thailand, traveling to the cities of Chiang Mai, Phuket and Bangkok.
'Being in Thailand was a very exotic experience. The people were so friendly and so excited to have us there. Our hotel in Phuket was right on the beach. After hard practices we would cool down in the ocean during sunset, which were absolutely beautiful.'
But Thailand wasn't all sightseeing. The team trained and competed at a high level. The hard work paid off as the U-19 team captured third place at the 2004 FIFA Under-19 Women's World Championship.
Beuhler returned to The Farm during winter quarter of her sophomore year and resumed training with her Stanford teammates. She was able to bring her international playing experience back to a talented Stanford team.
'It felt like I had never left,' says Buehler. 'I was able to make a natural transition back onto the team during the winter and spring. Playing at such a high level really helped me improve my game. Playing with good people simply makes you better. I have learned how to play in high-pressure games with more confidence as a player. I did miss a season, but as I get older I have more to offer, especially leadership.'
Buehler and the rest of the Cardinal have started the season on a high note, playing a tough schedule and picking up wins on the road. All three of Stanford's losses have been to ranked teams: No. 3 ranked University of Portland, No. 1 ranked North Carolina and No. 14 ranked Texas A&M.
'We've had some tough games in the beginning of the season,' says Buehler. 'Our losses have been to good teams like Portland and North Carolina. But if we play them later in the season there will be different results.'
Buehler gets excited talking about this year's squad: 'We have a lot of freshman this year and they all bring something different but great to the table. We also have a big senior class providing good leadership from girls like Lindsey and Haley [Hunt]. The seniors mean a lot to me, they took us under their wing our freshman year. The freshman bring new life and spunk on and off the field.'
With each game, this year's squad is honing its style and improving from the last. The team is young and steadily learning to play better together.
'Our defense has been one of our strengths the last few years. We're still feeling each other out and working on finding the goal more. Our attack will come when we get more familiar with the style of play that we want to embrace.'
As an upperclassman and since gaining international experience, both Buehler and her team look to her for leadership. Buehler and sisters Lindsey and Haley Hunt are tri-captains for the 2005 squad.
'I want us to play to the best of our ability and for each other. If you play with all of your heart and for your teammates, that will bring good results. We need to appreciate every moment out there with each other. That's my personal goal, as well.'
Stanford will have plenty of opportunities to display growth as the season continues. The Cardinal matches up against No. 5 Santa Clara on September 30, the team that knocked Stanford out of NCAA competition dramatically in 2004. On May 19th, Stanford posted a 1-0 victory over Santa Clara, helping the Cardinal avenge the overtime loss from the tournament and end the spring campaign on a positive not. In conference play this season, Stanford will meet No. 9 California on October 15, No. 22 Arizona on October 23 and No. 4 UCLA on October 30.
Rachel Buehler will be challenged throughout the season to put her knowledge and experience to the test as a member of the Stanford team. No doubt she will enjoy every minute back on the field with her teammates. When asked what role soccer might play in Buehler's future, she simply responds, 'I take each opportunity as it arises and enjoy it. As long as I enjoy soccer, I'll go as far as I can. I'm pretty sure I'll always love soccer, so I'll probably be playing forever.'