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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Montoya brings Olympic experience with her for Wildcats soccer

Larry Hogan/Arizona Daily Wildcat Ana Maria Montoya, No. 3, practices with the UA women’s soccer team on Aug. 28, 2012.

Ana-Maria Montoya has quite the resume. Two FIFA World Cups, the 2012 Summer Olympics and a starting job in mid-field for the Arizona soccer team are just a few of the achievements Montoya has racked up, all within the last year.

In a game against NAU on Aug. 26 , Montoya was a key cog in the first Wildcats’ win in 10 games, dating back to last season. In a span of six minutes, Montoya recorded two of the UA’s three goals in the shutout victory.

The Wildcats struggled in 2011, winning just one out of 19 games, and Montoya had two goals on 42 shots in the entire season. In the game against the Lumberjacks, Montoya already tied her total from last season. Her solid play early this season might be resulting from her experience in London, playing for Colombia in the Olympics.

“It was an amazing experience and a huge stepping stone in my career,” Montoya said. “I got my first cap when I played against Canada in a friendly match. It was a dream to get my cap with a national team because that is what people work for their entire life. That feeling I can’t describe.”

Montoya’s time in London captivated her teammates as well, particularly junior midfielder Shannon Heinzler.

“I was back home and watching the Olympics with my cousins when I saw Ana walk onto the field,” Heinzler said. “I was so happy and overly excited, but my family had no clue what was going on. I had to explain to them that she was not only my teammate, but my roommate.”

Montoya was one of five current UA athletes to participate in the 2012 London Olympic Games, playing a total of 19 minutes — all against the U.S. national team — in Colombia’s three games. For Montoya, it was a dream come true to be on an Olympic roster, even if her team didn’t win any games.

Her passion for the game started at an early age.

“My dad is a huge soccer fan and growing up in Colombia, it was instilled in him, which he then reinstilled in me,” Montoya said.

“I used to watch soccer with my dad back when Colombia was super good on the men’s side. I remember the World Cup in 1994 and watching Carlos Valderrama, which really inspired me to play [mid-fielder].”

Montoya took part in Oregon’s Olympic Development Program, which prepares athletes to qualify for the U.S. national team, from 2004 to 2008 and attended the program’s regional camps from 2005 to 2007.

Even though Montoya excelled in ODP she felt tied to Colombia, and in her junior year of high school, she took a semester off to play in the under-17 FIFA World Cup in New Zealand with the Colombia national team.

“I feel like I was really representing my dad and I was living his dream playing with the national team,” Montoya said. “It just meant so much more to my family.”

Just before she graduated high school, Montoya was called back to play with the Colombian team in her second FIFA World Cup in Germany with the under-20 team.

“Back then I was a lot younger and a lot more inexperienced, but playing in the U-17 World Cup was a stepping stone for me,” Montoya said. “Then with the U-20 World Cup I realized it was the real deal and our one job was to win.”

Montoya’s next step was to pursue a collegiate career as a student athlete.

After multiple offers from various colleges, Montoya decided on Arizona for three reasons — the weather, the coaching staff and how welcomed she felt by the team during her visit as a recruit.

Arizona head coach Lisa Oyen has noticed that Montoya’s Olympic experience is making an impact on the Wildcats.

“With international experience and playing at that level, she comes back with a different understanding of the game,” Oyen said.

“Beyond that she brings a ton of passion to how she plays in general. She has a lot of really good energy, but she is very passionate of the game in and of itself which is contagious. That can be a real spark for the team as far as playing and training.”

All throughout the Olympics, Montoya’s family attended every game. Back at home, Montoya’s teammates watched with joy as she took the field.

With the support of her family and teammates, Montoya said she looks to pursue a professional career with the Colombian team with two years left of eligibility.

“We have the World Cup qualifiers in a year and a half from now, which will be in the fall of my senior year,” Montoya said. “If we qualify, which we should, the World Cup is in Vancouver [Canada] in three years from now. Then the Olympics are after that in Brazil. So I have a lot to look forward to.”

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