Sometimes home really is where the heart is.
That's what Colorado head coach Danny Sanchez has made clear during his time at CU. He and his coaches target the best players in the country to become Buffs, and that includes the hotbed the state of Colorado has become when it comes to producing top soccer talent.
They may not always land all the targeted in-state talent on the first try, but that doesn't mean it's over. Danica Evans, Morgan Stanton, Megan Massey and Tatum Barton are just a few examples of in-state players that found their way back to Colorado.
Two of the latest examples are Colorado seniors Sofia Weiner and Gabbi Chapa. The departing duo is two of four current Colorado natives that began their collegiate career outside of Boulder.
"We recruit the best Colorado players and hope that they come [to CU]," Sanchez explained. "But if they don't, we always leave the door open. We've had a lot of success with players like them. Hailey Stodden and Dani Hansen are also examples right now, but you can put the list together."
Weiner, a graduate of Evergreen High School, started out playing at the University of Virginia. Chapa graduated from Doherty High School in Colorado Springs and began at the University of Illinois.
For both players, the decision to go to school outside of Colorado was about new experiences and accomplishing goals.
"I just wanted to experience something new and challenge myself," Weiner recalled. "I was the first student from my high school to go to Virginia and it was something that I was really prideful in. I was in those angst teenage years where I didn't really want to be around my family. I didn't think that was important and as soon as I left I immediately regretted that choice."
Illinois was Chapa's desired destination, targeting the school as her first choice.
"When I went out there I really enjoyed my time and experiences," Chapa noted. "The team was amazing. I'm definitely happy and still excited that I made the switch to come back to Colorado."
The path back to Colorado was different for the two players. Weiner was a recruit that Sanchez had built a relationship with throughout the initial process. Chapa wasn't originally recruited by CU.
"Sophia was a player that we recruited who we thought would be a good fit for us," Sanchez said. "Gabbi was a really good player that we were aware of, but she just wasn't a need for us at that time.
"We always say 'never burn bridges," Sanchez continued. "Sophia reached out pretty much at the end of her first semester freshman year and really wanted to be a Buff. Gabbi was a little later. She reached out in the summer after her freshman year. At that point, we had the roster set for the 2018 season. However, I went and watched her play that summer in a summer league game and I thought she did well so we invited her into the preseason with no promises. Within a day of the preseason, we realized that we found a little bit of a diamond in the rough."
2018 marked the first season at CU for both transfers. Weiner started 16 matches and played in all 20. Chapa made 13 appearances and picked up a start against UCLA. That start against the Bruins helped catapult her into a mainstay on the defensive backline for the Buffs.
"We brought her in to deal with a national team lever attacker for UCLA and she shut her down" Sanchez added. "The rest is history."
Both players have made an impact both on and off the field for the Buffs. Weiner and Chapa were voted team captains the last two seasons and have 76 combined starts. Offensively, Chapa picked up her first career goal against Arizona State in 2019 and notched a second last weekend at Arizona State. Weiner registered her first career point with an assist earlier this season at USC.
The Buffaloes take on Utah on Friday in Salt Lake City (3 p.m.), marking the final regular-season game for Chapa and Weiner. The Buffs hope to play more soccer this season with a berth to the NCAA Tournament.
That announcement will come Monday, but no matter what Weiner and Chapa both can be proud of what they've accomplished with Colorado across their chest.
"This is not an easy task," Weiner admitted. "I think sometimes it's brushed over. It's a hard feat to do this, especially for five years emotionally, mentally and physically. I think first and foremost, I'm just proud. I think the impact that Colorado has left on me is my resilience and my commitment to something. Even when it pushes you away multiple times. You just come back and keep trying. I think that resiliency is going not take us far in life."
"It's sad to see it come to an end," Chapa added. "But you really just have to soak it up and enjoy these last moments because it ends at some point. I think we're just trying to enjoy it."