Colorado Springs native Aleesa Muir isn’t planning the typical European trip after she graduates from UCCS in May.
While some of her fellow Class of 2020 graduates will celebrate the achievement with Instagram posts from the Eiffel Tower, tours of Roman ruins and pints of Guinness in Dublin pubs, Muir plans to cross the Atlantic to start her professional soccer career.
“Right now the plan is to go for Europe,” the captain of the undefeated and top-ranked UCCS women’s soccer team said. “Again, life happens, so that could change. But, yeah, I’m definitely open to the opportunity to play in Europe.”
The UCCS women's soccer team capped a 17-0 regular season, and 13-0 run to the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference regular-season title, with a 4-1 win over Regis on Sunday. The Mountain Lions aren't worried about pressure heading into the postseason.
Finalizing those plans will have to wait until the Mountain Lions’ season ends. UCCS hosts Colorado School of Mines in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference final at 1 p.m. Saturday before starting the NCAA Tournament, most likely at home.
“Once the season is over, we’ll put together film and then we’ll sort of really start to market her to agents and scouts,” UCCS coach Sian Hudson said.
Hudson added that Muir, a graduate of The Classical Academy, has worked for the past year to put herself in a position to become a pro. Hudson used an old contact to find her left wingback a spot with Pensacola FC, a semipro side that competes in the Women’s Premier Soccer League. Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach and Megan Rapinoe played in the league before becoming American soccer icons.
“We just talked about last summer being a really key period for her to sort of put herself out there at that level and to build a resume for what could potentially come this spring,” Hudson said.
Muir left her hometown — where she’s played most of her soccer going back to her days with Pride Soccer Club — and embarked on a different kind of summer internship.
The top-ranked UCCS women's soccer team beat Westminster 1-0 on Sunday to advance to the RMAC championship game.
“I definitely think it got her out of her comfort zone. Whether during her time at Colorado College or here at UCCS, she’s lived at home in her community and been surrounded by her family at all times and friends,” Hudson said. “I think just going down to Florida and sort of being by herself, being fully engrossed in a soccer team where she didn’t have immediate friends, I think I saw a lot of personal growth in her.”
Muir made nine appearances, tallying one assist, as Pensacola won the league championship after an 8-0-0 regular season in which they scored 53 goals while giving up only four.
“My experience this summer was a little humbling. I think I definitely got less minutes than I’m used to, so I think that honestly prepared me a little bit and made me realize my role and what I can give to a team,” she said.
The Mountain Lions appear better for it. UCCS takes a 19-0 record into the RMAC final with a plus-58 goal differential (66 scored, eight allowed). Muir, a senior, has four goals and four assists.
“There are a lot of collegiate athletes that will work out over the summer and maintain their physical fitness but don’t really get on the ball,” Hudson said of benefits of a summer in WPSL. “I think for Aleesa the aspect of her game that’s been really important to develop this past year has been her final ball. She gets forward extremely well out of the back, but developing a final ball and becoming a threat herself with goals and assists. … This year, she’s done extremely well in that department for us.”
The UCCS Mountain Lions kicked off what they hope and expect will be a long postseason with a 5-0 RMAC Tournament quarterfinal victory against CSU-Pueblo at Mountain Lion Stadium. They settled down and put away the ThunderWolves with two quick second-half goals.
Hudson compared Muir’s game to that of Adrienne Jordan, a Rampart and Northern Colorado graduate who’s now playing with Birmingham City in England’s top women’s league.
“You don’t find many really athletic, left-footed left backs,” Hudson said. “I think she’s going to be an attractive prospect for sure.”
Should life happen, and soccer moves out of the picture, Muir has another dream to chase.
“I have soccer and science,” Muir said. “No matter what, I know I’ll end up going to medical school. If I can fit an additional couple years of soccer into my life, I think I’d be pretty happy with that.”
For now, planning the trip to Europe takes a welcomed back seat to another championship run, this one with her college teammates.
“I hope I’m there on Dec. 14th holding the trophy with all of my best friends,” Muir said.