Freshman Liana Salazar Preparing for World Cup

April 13, 2011

LAWRENCE, Kan. – For freshmen student-athletes at Kansas, college can be difficult to adjust to. Tougher classes, a new group of teammates and a difficult practice schedule can all add to the stress of a difficult transition. Most student-athletes however, don’t have the added frustration of being in a new country and learning an entirely new language.

Freshman midfielder Liana Salazar moved from Bogotá, Colombia in January and has had to confront each of those challenges quickly. Just three months after arriving in Lawrence, Salazar has been forced to adapt to differences in just about every aspect of her life, including soccer. She admits that the decision to attend school in the U.S. was a difficult one.

“It was a very hard decision because it was a new place, new language, new customs,” Salazar said. “But when I came here I adapted to it all. I learned the language and I made friendships with new people. I really have had to adapt fast.”

Salazar’s teammates have looked for every opportunity to help out their new young midfielder. Two Jayhawks, Madi Hillis and Nicole Chrisopulos, routinely speak with her in Spanish while others help her adjusting to life in the States.

“All my teammates have helped me a lot,” Salazar said. When I need something my teammates will help me out. If I need to go to Wal-Mart they say, `Okay. I’ll drive you.’ Or `I’ll help with your homework.’ My teammates have really helped me out.”

In Colombia, Salazar is one of the top female soccer players in the country. She was a starter on both the U-17 and U-20 Colombian World Cup teams, which gives her more international experience than anyone on KU’s current roster. It’s easy to see why head coach Mark Francis was quick in signing the young Colombian. Although she is just a freshman, she will bring a new type of style and experience that no one else on the team has.

This summer, Salazar will be competing in her first world cup at the senior level, giving her great experience against some of the best female soccer players in the world. It will also be fantastic preparation for the Jayhawks’ fall season. However, Salazar isn’t getting head of herself. Right now, Salazar’s main focus is to train for her summer endeavor while also learning the ins and outs of the KU soccer program.

“I think playing here has really helped me because I’m training hard,” said Salazar. “The training here is very hard compared to the training in Colombia. It’s very different.”

Salazar says that among all the differences between Kansas and Colombia even soccer is played in a different way. She has even struggled with learning the American style but is getting constant instruction from her coaches and teammates.

“This type of game is really different,” Salazar said. “Coach Francis helps me, so I understand the changes. In Colombia, it’s a different game, it’s similar but different. It’s confusing for me sometimes.”

Salazar has made adapting to changes a habit over the past three months, even changing the way she trains. The Jayhawks’ strength and conditioning trainer, Molly McKinnon, has taken Salazar under her wing and is working through the challenges of changing her former training habits. It has been one of the most difficult changes she has had to face.

“We train with weights everyday here, whereas in Colombia we only train two or three days a week with weights,” Salazar said of her new training regimen. “I can see that in just six months I’ve gotten a lot faster and my body is a lot stronger. It’s been a big difference.”

Even with the tremendous amount of changes Salazar has had to deal with over the past few months, she still thinks she made the right decision. She believes she is training with some of the top collegiate athletes and coaches in the country and that she will be in great shape when it comes time to represent Columbia this summer in the World Cup.

“I feel like I’ve gotten a lot faster and that’s better for my future,” Salazar said. “It’s definitely better for my work up to the World Cup. When I leave for Colombia in three weeks, I will go as a much better player.”