As a freshman at Rose State College, El Reno native Ryan Robertson can remember all the ups and downs of being a first-year soccer player on the collegiate level.
Luckily she had her big sister, Reagan on the same squad to provide both emotional and physical support.
Now the roles have changed.
Reagan has since moved on from the Midwest City program and took the 2018 season off while trying to decide her future in the sport.
“She (Reagan) thought she didn’t want to play anymore but now she is trying to find a team to get on for next fall,” said Ryan Robertson.
That meant a new role for the middle of the three Robertson girls.
“Reagan still comes out to support us and she gives me her opinion on how I have played and ways I can get better. I was worried about her not getting to play, but it’s been helpful to me,” said Robertson.
With big sister gone, Robertson took on another role for her sophomore season with the Raiders, that of a mentor for an incoming freshman.
Luck again shined as that newcomer just happened to be her old high school teammate, Paige Graham.
“It’s good having Paige out here. I think she likes it here and she is playing my old position and that is different for her than in high school, so she is asking me questions and then jumps right in there.
“I’m like the big sister now. I can help her with practice and on the field, but the school part she is on her own,” said Robertson.
Graham admits it’s been rough adapting to the college level.
“I would say it’s different from high school because we practice every day and we travel all the time. It’s still the same game, but things on the outside are different,” said Graham.
Things like limited playing time. Graham has played in 13 matches for the Raiders this season, but has started in none.
“It’s just a lot different from high school where I started and played the whole game. Now I’m struggling because I’m not getting as much playing time so adjusting to that has been different - and the school work you have to devote a lot more study time.
“I knew playing time would drop and you can say you realize it, but when you are sitting there on the bench, it’s really hard. It humbles you when you realize you are not the best out there on the team and others can play. However, it’s not all bad because it helps me get better because I have to work hard if I want to play,” said Graham.
Getting through those hard times, said Graham, has been aided with the support of Robertson and other sophomores of the team.
“She has really helped along with the other sophomores. They can remember how hard it was not getting to play as much when they were freshmen and now they are playing the entire game. So they have been there encouraging me,” said Graham.
Graham added Robertson has been there from the start.
“It has helped because from the start of training camp she was there and a familiar face and that made me feel comfortable,” said Graham.
Both players, who were All-State defenders for El Reno their respective senior years of high school, have leaned on each other to get through the perils of learning new positions for the Raiders this year.
Robertson moved from a center back defender her freshman year with Rose State to being an outside middle attacker in 2018. She also had to get used to more time on the field as she has started in 15 of 17 regular-season matches.
“We got a new coach and that meant new formations and I went from center back to the outside middle. I had to learn how to attack and score goals again. It’s been since my senior year of high school that I had to do that, and I didn’t do a whole lot of that back then, so it’s been a learning curve for sure,” said Robertson.
Robertson has logged six shots for the season, three of those on goal, while picking up a point for an assist in the Raiders 2-1 win over Murray State to close out the regular season.
“It was hard getting back into the attack mode at first and it took me four or five games before I got my first shot and things started getting better. My role has been more of getting the ball into the box with crosses and having other people finish off my passes,” said Robertson.
This meant having to retrain her mindset from that of a defender.
“Just getting up the field quicker and getting the ball into the box. Everything about attack from taking on players one-on-one, shooting and scoring that all seemed new again to me,” said Robertson.
Graham said the speed of the college game from that of high school has been eye-opening.
“It's been a learning curve and compared to high school, there is a lot more running. Switching from defense to offense and then back to defense, I don’t think I ever ran that much in high school.
“The speed of the game is a lot faster. Even in the practices I run a lot more than in high school. It’s a higher level and at first I did struggle with that but I have adapted,” said Graham.
Graham added college life has taken some getting used to.
“They have not told us what we will be doing after the season is over, but Ryan said last year they lifted weights all year long and we still practiced every day. We have recruits coming in and we practice a lot with them,” said Graham.
Graham played some as midfielder her senior year at El Reno, but made her impact as a defender and a solid scoring threat in overtime shootouts. In college, though, she is having to cover more ground on defense.
“We are not playing three defenders, so every play you have got to drop back and cover someone. In high school I didn’t have to cover as much,” said Graham.
Editor’s Note: Rose State College was playing in the NJCAA Region 2 Championships this weekend in Miami as the No.2 seed. The Raiders were slated to play Northern Oklahoma College of Tonkawa in the first round.