Kuhlmann Starts New Chapter with Buffs
BOULDER—Two games into the 2022 season and Civana Kuhlmann's assimilation to the Colorado Buffaloes soccer program seems flawless.
The early returns seem to agree, having started both matches for the Buffs and netting two goals in last Sunday's 5-1 win over San Diego.
But first, the background.
Kuhlmann, a Chatfield High School graduate, spent her first four years of college at Pac-12 rival Stanford. Kuhlmann burst on the NCAA soccer scene in 2017, totaling 22 points (9 G, 4 A) as a true freshman, earning Pac-12 All-Freshman honors and winning a national championship. As a sophomore, she scored seven more goals and helped the Cardinal to the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament.
Injury struck at the start of the 2019 season when she suffered a torn ACL in an exhibition game, cutting her season short. The Cardinal went on to win a second NCAA championship that year and Kuhlmann returned for the COVID- delayed 2020 season, being named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List and closing as a Third Team All-Pac-12 selection.
Two hip surgery's later, with the last being this past February, Kuhlmann's immediate soccer future was in doubt.
"If I'm being honest, I never thought I would play college soccer again," Kuhlmann expressed. "After both my hip surgeries, it was Colorado that made me want to play again. It's a dream to come home and play where I grew up, where I've been rehabbing. The place that got me back on my feet. [This season] is going to be special. I'm just excited to play in front of my two nieces every weekend."
Kuhlmann got back to training after her first surgery, but it wasn't more than a day later that she found out her left labrum was also torn.
"It was completely defeating," Kuhlmann recalled. "It was my fourth surgery in two years. I think I was just over it for a quick second. I told myself before that I wouldn't get another surgery. Then I needed it and it was a no-brainer. I was like, 'of course I'm going to get it.' At the time I didn't think I could, but there was no question that I still wanted to play.
"By the time I complete this second comeback I think I will have completed two collegiate comebacks of over 480 days. I don't know how many people have done that twice in their college career."
That's where Colorado head coach Danny Sanchez stepped in. Colorado has a long list of natives that have transferred back to CU and adding Kuhlmann is proving to be the latest success story.
"I think she planned to just train this fall and then turn professional in the spring," Sanchez remembered. "As her recovery progressed and got towards the middle of summer she realized that she would be cleared soon and be able to play. She entered the portal and reached out. The only question mark at that point was how healthy was she going to be because she still wasn't 100% cleared. As July turned to August it became very evident that she was game ready and ready to go."
Kuhlmann also detailed the conversations with Sanchez that ultimately landed her in the Black and Gold.
"The conversations with Danny were honestly random and unexpected," Kuhlmann joked. "Probably a little unexpected on both sides. It was all very sudden and honestly just a series of fortunate events that we even ended up on the phone together. Once it happened it was like 'duh.' This always made the most sense."
Sanchez announced the addition of Kuhlmann on July 11 and the Buffs reported for fall camp on Aug. 1. After two and half weeks of training and learning all her new teammates, she was in the Buffs' opening day XI.
"Once she started preseason and got the full all clear, then it was just a matter of managing her minutes," Sanchez said of fall camp. "We managed her workload in the preseason but as we progressed towards the Weber State game it became clear that she was close to 100%."
The start of her new chapter in Boulder already includes a 2-0 start, 10 goals scored as a team and Colorado catapulting to No. 25 in the United Soccer Coaches rankings.
"I'm a completely different person and player," Kuhlmann concluded. "It's been a long journey. I look back at parts of it but I wouldn't change any of it because I'm here now. It led me to be in Colorado. I think it definitely changed me for the better."
The No. 25 Buffs will host Valparaiso (1-0-1) at Prentup Field on Friday. The match is the first ever meeting between the two schools. Thad Anderson will have the call on the Pac-12 Networks.