The 23-mile drive is what sold Genevieve Sauers on playing soccer for Northwest College in Powell.
“It’s nice to be close home but also, not at home,” Sauers said.
Sauers also enjoys the proximity to free laundry.
“We go through so much of it in practice,” Sauers said, laughing.
Sauers is one of three Cody High School graduates dotting the rosters of Northwest men’s and women’s soccer teams. Ashly Nieters, a former Cody and Northwest player, is also assistant coaching for the women’s team.
Bobby Peters, men’s and women’s team coach, says he makes an active effort to recruit players from the local area.
“I like getting local players,” Peters said. “It helps the program to have local players having success because up and coming players see that. To be given an outlet to play nearby gives an opportunity to these local players.”
Sauers and her former high school teammate Jules Novakovich won two state titles together while at Cody High School in 2017-2018. Now, the two are trying to instill a winning culture on a team that hasn’t won a game since 2016. In their opening tournament last weekend, the Trappers lost 5-0 and 12-0, respectively.
“It’s kind of like a mindset and mentality that not everyone has, and we have it,” Novakovich said. “We have to try and implement it into this team.”
As in any sport, a team’s success is usually defined by the work it puts into practice. Whether running mundane drills like dribbling through cones or training one-on-one game situations, Sauers and Novakovich understand the importance of always giving 100 percent.
“In practice, you work harder than the other teams that you’re going to play, and in the games you show that,” Novakovich said.
“What you do in practice shows in games,” Sauers said. “If you’re going half-fast in practice, it’s going to show in the games.”
Deliberating on what school to attend, Northwest started to become an obvious fit for Novakovich, when considering Peters, the proximity to Cody and an opportunity to figure out what major she would like to pursue in a low-cost environment.
“I really liked him, connected with him (Peters) right off the bat,” Novakovich said. “Also, a good option because I’m not sure what I want to do yet. Also, just to be able to play soccer is an added benefit of it – just thought it would be the most fun to come here.”
Freshman Morgan Dowling is the only former Cody player on the men’s roster. His mother was the selling point behind his decision to stay close.
“I wanted to be able to see her pretty often,” Dowling said. “I grew up around here. It’s just nice to be able to go home and see my family all the time.”
Dowling and the Trappers will hope to build off a winning season and Region IX tournament appearance last year.
“We have a really good team,” Dowling said.
The former Bronc said the biggest difference in transitioning to the college game is the speed and the playing surface.
“Everything is on grass. I played on all turf in high school,” Dowling said.
Novakovich is excited to play in front of friends and family on a routine basis, starting with the Trappers’ home opener 11 a.m. Sept. 8 against Sheridan College.
“I think a lot of people will show up,” Novakovich said.
The three locals are acting as ambassadors for their teammates, some of them hailing from halfway around the world, to the Big Horn Basin. Peters said it’s his local players that provide an important anchor to the team base.
“It helps bring camaraderie around the area,” Peters said. “Bringing them over for home-cooked meals, it’s really a second home, a home away from home for many of these players.”
With practices, team travel, classes and studying, barely a moment passes that the teammates aren’t together.
“We all live with at least 1-2 soccer players so it’s nice to be close with them, because we see them everyday,” Sauers said.
Getting adjusted to the college level of soccer has been one of the biggest challenges for Sauers.
“It’s difficult but I enjoy it,” Sauers said, gazing over the sun-glossed soccer field. “It’s more physical and you have to be in a lot more shape than you are in high school.”
Being a junior college, Northwest only offers two years of athletic eligibility. Sauers, Novakovich and Dowling all say they will try to attain scholarships to continue their soccer careers at four-year schools for their junior and senior seasons.
One player who opted for a different pursuit is Nieters, who is entering her third year at Northwest. After finishing her career last season, Nieters decided to stick around and finish up a few classes while serving as women’s assistant coach this fall.
“It’s cool getting a different view of coaching them, rather than playing with them,” Nieters said.
Coaching provides Nieters the perfect side-gig while preparing for radiology school. It’s an opportunity that allows her to pursue her other interest in coaching, while reconnecting with her former Cody teammates.
“It’s absolutely amazing,” Nieters said. “As the season (goes) on, the more and more unique it is. (To) have that different level of knowing leadership, having those girls from Cody play here, it’s unique.”