|Sandra Geiselhart gets early jump on contributing to 49ers soccer|
|Freshman midfielder focused on facilitating|
|Published Monday, April 23, 2018 4:02 pm|
|COURTESY CHARLOTTE 49ERS|
|Freshman Sandra Geiselhart enrolled early with the Charlotte 49ers to acclimate herself to college life and the soccer program.|
Sandra Geiselhart is a product of a changing soccer cycle.
The freshman midfielder’s January enrollment with the Charlotte 49ers gives her a spring season to prepare for their fall campaign, the only one of eight 2018 signees to do so. Geiselhart’s arrival coincides with the departure of midfielder Martha Thomas, Charlotte’s all-time leading scorer with 47 goals.
“I’ve always been kind of like a playmaker of the team,” Geiselhart said. “I like assisting. I do that a lot more than scoring. Coming in now, I want to become more dominant, and a more consistent player who is always making the players around me good as well. I definitely want to become one of the more dominant players on the team. That’s one of the reasons that I decided to come in early. I hope that there’s a chance for me to become one of those players.”
Cullen isn’t comparing the 5-7 Geiselhart to Thomas, a two-time Conference USA offensive player of the year. He prefers allowing the freshman carve her own path.
“Martha was a unique player,” Cullen said. “You’re fortunate as a coach that once every 10 years one of those players comes along and really impacts the program on and off the field, but Martha had all the attributes; captain, consistency, quality of player and humility. I see certain attributes in Sandra, but I wouldn’t want to put that pressure on her over her career. I just want her to be the best Sandra.”
Geiselhart is the second freshman in as many seasons to join the 49ers during the spring semester, which coach John Cullen noted is a quality that allows them to take an advanced approach to their first season. Based on the success of defender Kate Hickson as a freshman last year (19 starts in 21 appearances), Geiselhart’s impact could be immediate with Charlotte, which is coming off consecutive Conference USA tournament final appearances, including a 2016 title and berth in the NCAA tournament.
“The soccer cycle is changing more and more,” Cullen said. “There’s more and more pressure on young players when they come in, particularly in August where we may have played two games before classes actually start.”
Cullen sees early entry as a means to allowing players additional time to adapt to a new world.
“We look at what the player has to manage: academics, new coaches, new teammates, new surroundings, new accommodations,” he said. “That’s all kind of overwhelming, initially as a freshman. The thought process is trying to get them in, get them acquainted with us, get some work done with our strength and conditioning coach, allow them to play in four-five spring games, and hit the ground running.”
Geiselhart, who played at Ragsdale High in Greensboro and Piedmont Triad F.C., graduated with a 5.0 grade point average and eighth in a class of 331 as a member of National Honor Society and Beta Club. She intends to major in international business or exercise science at Charlotte.
“I know they’re super different, but we’ll see which route I end up taking,” Geiselhart said.
A native of Gothenburg, Sweden, Geiselhart arrived in Charlotte with all-region and all-conference recognition as well as ODP Team 1 2014-16 experience. Over half of her life was spent in Sweden, where she played club for Näsets SK.
“Somehow I fell in love with it,” said Geiselhart, who started playing when she was 4 years old. “Here, we do a lot of technical work looking at our formation and having set plays. In Sweden, I feel like it’s more free-flowing. Other than that, the games are really similar.”
Yet Geiselhart considers herself a student of the game, an anomaly among American women who stereotypically want to just play, rather than study.
“I definitely love watching it,” Geiselhart said. “That’s the best way to learn. I have kind of a ritual that before one of our big games I watch a full game the night before, during the day before. I think I definitely am a student of the game, and I love watching it.”
Geiselhart prefers to follow players over team, which means following Swedish striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
“I love watching him,” Geiselhart said. “It’s pretty much that he’s Swedish, and we watch him. It’s kind of like a religion over there. I love watching the British Premier League and the NWSL—literally anything that’s on, I’ll just watch it.”
Off the pitch, she loves to travel, something growing up in Europe instilled in her, and a characteristic she intends to keep.
“I love to travel,” Geiselhart said. “Living in Europe for half my life, we’ve traveled all over, and my parents really emphasized that growing up. I want to continue that—just seeing the world.”
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