From roster cut to rotation player?
It’s a transition made by few, and it normally takes at least a year – if not more – to see it happen. For soccer’s Kendra Buchanan, it took a week.
“I definitely didn’t anticipate it being this great,” Buchanan said.
The improbable swing took place in ‘06, when Buchanan was a newly arrived freshman from California. She contacted Coach Brent Anderson to request a tryout, which Anderson granted.
The verdict? Thanks, but no thanks.
“I’ll be honest, I just didn’t think she could play women’s soccer with us,” Anderson said. “I called her up after camp, we talked for a little bit, and in the end I wished her well.”
Buchanan, relatively indifferent to the answer, spoke to her parents, to whom she is very close. Her father Kevin told her to call the Wolverines coach back, which she did that same week.
“I said, ‘Brent, I know I can play for you. I know I can be a good player for your team,’ ” Buchanan said.
Incredibly, Anderson’s responded, “Can you be here next Sunday?”
There wasn’t a tryout that day – it was a game day.
“She called me back and basically told me I was wrong and that she could play,” Anderson laughed. “She asked if I’d give her a chance. I was just so impressed with the conversation and her attitude, I said ‘Alright.’ ”
Buchanan didn’t react to Anderson’s about-face as other athletes might have done. Rather than feeling overjoyed and triumphant, the former Santa Clara, Calif., MVP defender was only too aware of deserving what she had asked for.
“It was extremely scary,” Buchanan said. “I was at a different level than college players. But I had just told him I could do it, so I had to prove I could play at that level.”
Buchanan proved enough to stick on the roster, redshirting her first year.
As a redshirt freshman in ‘07, Buchanan’s progress was derailed by injury for the first half of the season. With only eight games playedunder her belt, the family-centered Buchanan began to sorely miss her family and home at Santa Clara.
“It was hard on me mentally and physically being away from home for the first couple years,” Buchanan said.
While Anderson could sympathize with Buchanan’s homesickness and injuries, he wasn’t about to let those douse the competitive fire that got her a roster spot in the first place.
“You could just see she was affected by her situation, and we had a little face-to-face meeting,” Anderson said. “I asked her, ‘Where is the girl that called me up a couple years ago?’ I wanted that attitude back, and she responded. She stepped it up. She was much more confident.”
The following season, Buchanan earned a starting job at defender, starting every game since that point up to this season. Buchanan was also named to the GWC All-Academic Team her sophomore and junior years.
Buchanan gave her coach and her newer, geographically closer family of teammates credit for giving her back the confidence that earned her that family in the first place.
“I feel like I’ve known them for so much longer than I have,” Buchanan said. “I just feel like we’ve grown a lot together, because we’ve had a lot of hard times in our seasons. We just understand each other. We all have the same goal, so it’s easy to respect each other. To see them at this point and know we’ve made it this far, it means a lot.”
Ironically, the unlikely manner in which her career started, with a ‘no’ that almost remained a ‘no,’ is something Buchanan would prefer not to think about.
“[Coach Anderson] just saying ‘yes,’ I couldn’t have asked for anything better,” Buchanan said. “I don’t want to think about what my life would be without it.”