The first year Carly Bolyard was on the University of Colorado women’s soccer team, the Buffs won four games. One year later, a knee injury in practice ended her season.
Now a senior, Bolyard is fully healthy and becoming one of the leaders of a CU team that is looking to replicate the success of 2013.
This year, the Buffaloes are 7-2, combining solid defense with a constantly improving offensive game. Bolyard has become an integral part of CU’s play in front of the goal, netting three goals so far this season. The spark for such success is two-pronged: the confidence of having a healthy knee, and the fact that this will most likely be her last year playing competitive soccer.
“Once I got my brace off I gained more confidence,” Bolyard said. “And now it’s my senior year, and you only have 15, 16 games left, so you have to put everything on the field.”
The road to this point in her career was one of adversity and injury. Coming into her freshman year, Bolyard missed most of the preceding spring with a foot injury, but it didn’t hamper her ability to step right into a team that was desperate for an injection of talent. She started 18 of 19 games in 2011, scoring goals and providing assists, and looked every bit like a player on the rise. But one year later Bolyard suffered a knee injury that ended her season early, giving her only three starts.
While she played in all 23 games the next season, she didn’t start to flourish again until the last 10 games. In the round of 32 of the NCAA tournament, Bolyard scored the game-winner in the Buffs’ 2-1 upset of No. 19 Brigham Young University, putting CU into the Sweet 16. It was the culmination of what she described as, “a long journey” and provided a good dose of confidence coming into her final year in the black and gold. Looking back on it, the knee brace appeared to be a mental hindrance as opposed to a physical one. Head coach Danny Sanchez and senior captain Darcy Jerman both agreed.
“I think that anyone who wears that brace feels it’s pretty restricting,” Jerman said. “Getting that off I think builds confidence, because you can finally go to ground hard or go into a tackle and not have to worry about this big thing on your leg. So I think getting it off definitely helped her.”
Coach Sanchez saw the same type of turnaround. Although it wasn’t, in his words, “like Forrest Gump when he started running and [the brace] just fell off,” he still contended that Bolyard was certainly ready to come out of it and be ready to play. More than a year removed from the injury, Bolyard has now become a goal-scorer and leader on a team that is eyeing another Sweet 16 trip. Looking back on her four years in a CU uniform, she believes that her game has transformed into something special.
“I’ve grown up to be an impact player,” she said. “I hid freshman and sophomore year and finally was like, ‘I need to be that player that makes the plays.'”
She did just that, and has all but solidified her spot in the starting 11. Bolyard leads the team in goals, points and shooting percentage so far this year. The play has been good, but coach Sanchez believes that there is one last step before she transitions into a truly great player.
“The mark of a very good player is consistency throughout the whole year,” Sanchez said. “But also when we get to Pac-12 play, score there and get assists there. We want her to continue to do this and continue to score in the Pac-12 games coming up.”
It doesn’t look like Bolyard will slow down anytime soon, and with her confidence beaming, expect more scoring as the Buffs continue their march back to the NCAA tournament.
Contact CU Independent Sports Editor Andrew Haubner at Andrew.email@example.com.