There were plenty of athletes across all sports who knew immediately they planned to take advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA as a pandemic concession.
And then there is Civana Kuhlmann.
It was only a month ago when Kuhlmann was at her family’s Centennial home, regaining her health while preparing for a soccer future she figured didn’t include another season in the Pac-12. Following a career at Stanford that began with eye-popping promise but ended with a frustrating run of hip injuries, Kuhlmann was content enough to get healthy in time to start a pro career in 2023.
As it turned out, Kuhlmann got healthy much faster than expected.
“Things were moving along quickly,” Kuhlmann said. “Then it was July, and I was like, ‘I could probably be playing in the next couple months.’ So why wait around for the (NWSL) draft in January when I can go play?”
A phone call to Colorado head coach Danny Sanchez and a journey through the transfer portal led Kuhlmann to Prentup Field, where the former Stanford forward will look to bolster a Buffaloes attack rich with potential for the 2022 season.
A graduate of Chatfield High who competed with the Colorado Rush club program, Kuhlmann was a third team All-Pac-12 selection as a true freshman in 2017, ranking eighth in the league with 22 points on nine goals and four assists. Two of those goals were scored in Boulder in a 3-0 Stanford win on Oct. 8, 2017.
The Cardinal won the national championship that season and again in 2019, though Kuhlmann missed that latter run after getting injured in a preseason game against Missouri. Kuhlmann shared Stanford’s team lead with four goals in the delayed 2020 season in early 2021 and again scored against the Buffs, notching an 88th-minute winner at Stanford.
But Kuhlmann endured surgery on her right hip about 13 months ago, and she had surgery on her left hip in February. Both were to correct similar labrum problems. When her recovery went smoothly, Kuhlmann followed a similar path as many recent CU standouts — among them Becca Rasmussen, Megan Massey, Tatum Barton, Sofia Weiner, and Gabbi Chapa, along with current teammate Hailey Stodden — by returning to her home state after starting their collegiate careers elsewhere.
“I would say me using my extra year didn’t even evolve last year. It literally evolved last month,” Kuhlmann said. “I had no plans to use my extra year of eligibility. After my first hip surgery at Stanford in July of 2021, that was already going to be my fifth year. So I kind of counted myself out of college and looked to get healthy. And looked to the next step, which is pros, for my goals and aspirations.
“I haven’t been on a team since spring of 2021. This is something I’ve been dreaming about quite literally every day at home for over a year. It’s pretty surreal to be out here. I’ve been through so much and have spent so much time on my own, to be out here with the team, I’m just really happy. And I’m really thankful that physically, it’s going much better than I anticipated.”
As the Buffs go through preseason workouts with an eye on the Aug. 18 opener at home against Weber State, Kuhlmann has an opportunity to play a part in what could be a deep attack. CU returns leading goal-scorer Shyra James, and Sanchez has lauded the offseason play of senior Kayleigh Webb as she moves into an attacking role.
“If you look at last year, Shyra had a bit of a slow start but she really came on, especially at the end of Pac-12 play. And she had a great spring,” Sanchez said. “Obviously Civana brings a lot of experience and Kayleigh Webb had a great spring and she’s doing well in camp. So you have three experienced players, but then you have some freshmen that are really good options and players like Rachel Rosen, who can play anywhere.
“I think this year we’ll have options, and players who are in form will play. It will be a good problem to have.”