Colorado women’s soccer freshman Roo Yarnell-Williams was surrounded by sports throughout her childhood. Yarnell-Williams is the youngest of five girls, her sister Makenna played soccer for Northern Arizona and her other sister Chelsea, was a diver at Pepperdine University. When asked to describe what growing up was like with four siblings, Yarnell-Williams used one word, “intense.”
“Everything was competitive,” Yarnell-Williams laughed. “I never wanted to lose. So, I feel like really being in that type of sports family, it pushed me to want to be the best and want to be the best me.”
Yarnell-Williams said growing up in an environment with four older sisters who were all driven by sports and competition helped craft her fiery mindset, an outlook she carries with her on the field today.
“I do not like losing,” Yarnell-Williams said. “I think that’s where I get my mentality from. I’d play up with my sister’s soccer team when I was younger, and I would not (want to) lose. I’d get so mad. I’d stay after practice and just shoot the ball because I wasn’t playing obviously because I was two years younger than her. But just the mentality of never giving up and just doing your best at all times I think really prepared me for this.”
Before to coming to Boulder, Yarnell-Williams played for the San Juan Soccer club. While a part of the club team Yarnell-Williams traveled to and played in tournaments in Sweden and Japan. The experience, she said, helped prepare her cognitively and presented her with a bit of adversity.
“My club experience was good, especially my last year there,” Yarnell-Williams said. “The coach from San Luis Obispo, Cal Poly came and ended up being my head coach and there was a game where I didn’t start and that really got to me. It was more mentally preparing me than physically preparing me. Definitely the mental aspect of it allowed me to be prepared for the many obstacles that I could face here (at CU).”
The Colorado women’s soccer team traveled to Steamboat before the 2019 season. Senior midfielder Taylor Kornieck talked previously about how the team’s trip allowed the nine new freshman to get to know the upperclassmen, and more specifically get comfortable being around CU’s senior leaders. Yarnell-Williams echoed Kornieck’s point and said it gave the Buffs a chance to start building chemistry and familiarity with each other off the field just being together pretty much all the time.
“That was definitely the point where we all ended up bonding together,” Yarnell-Williams said. “I mean there was no separation between anybody because you’re constantly in the same house. We got put in food groups… cooking together and making each other meals, really helped us bond in a way. We were taking care of each other. Just constantly being together in the same environment…. You could be a senior or a freshman and you’d still want to hang out with each other, which is very special because I know a lot of the girls from my old club team that went to college have not had the same experience.”
The trip, in Yarnell-Williams words allowed the team to “connect and get to know each other on a much deeper level, rather than just the love for the game.”
Flash forward to the fifth game of the Buffs’ season when Yarnell-Williams scored the second goal of her collegiate career in Colorado’s 2-0 victory over Austin Peay.
“I think Hannah (Sharts) was outside and it was a throw in,” Yarnell-Williams said. “I remember just her lofting the ball and it bouncing off somebody’s head and I chested it down and right when I chested it down I knew it was going to go right on my foot. So, I just flicked it in. I really just went through the process of saying (to myself) you can’t lean back, you can’t lean back, because I knew if that happened the ball would not be in the net and it would be flying over. So, I really just had to focus and take care of the ball.”
Yarnell-Williams said she’s grown and learned from her experience during those plays. The important thing being to stay calm and concentrated. Many athletes, including Yarnell-Williams, say that in those moments the game slows down for them.
“I think the game definitely has slowed down,” Yarnell-Williams said. “I mean you see the ball coming and you see the goal in front of you and before I would kind of panic a little bit, even in club, but here you don’t have time to panic. You really do have to just take everything in and take that big breath, which kind of helps clear your mind and slow the game down.”
Through the Buffs’ first five games of the season if Yarnell-Williams has learned one thing, “play fast.” Adjusting to the pace of the game has been one the biggest challenges playing soccer at Colorado.
“Coming in, I wasn’t expecting this high of tempo (in) the game,” Yarnell-Williams said. “And so, coming in and kind of adjusting to the speed of play, that’s something that everybody should be prepared for because it’s so much different than club soccer. You really have to just keep your head in the game and be checking your shoulder in order to get your passes off faster.”
Colorado’s schedule doesn’t get any easier, with matchups against Baylor, Denver and the defending national champions No. 6 Florida State on the road in three out of their next four games. But, Yarnell-Williams said the Buffs’ will be prepared for a fight.
“Baylor is obviously going to be a great team,” Yarnell-Williams said. “I think they finished in the top eight last year, so (it’s going to be) a really big challenge for us. I think if we all play together and bond together and come out strong in the beginning, I think we have a really good chance to win. But we really just have to (stay) mentally strong. We just have to play with confidence and I know our game is good. So, they should be scared.”