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    Raetzman’s Toughness Personifies Kentucky Soccer

    By: Sean Cartell
    Twitter: @SEC_Sean
    SEC Digital Network

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    LEXINGTON, Ky. – If one were to only take Kentucky soccer player Courtney Raetzman at face value, it would be a great underestimation of her abilities and her toughness.

    You might say she is only a freshman. You are likely to notice that she stands at just 4-foot-11. You could even think that a strong blow to the face that sidelined her for a week and a half would be a demoralizing injury.

    An inadvertent elbow to her right eye in practice that clocked Raetzman never got the rookie down. In fact, her only disappointment was that she couldn’t jump back in the game.

    “I’ve never seen a blackout like it and to get it in practice tells you something,” Kentucky head coach Jon Lipsitz said. “She never showed a negative emotion until I told her she couldn’t play. She literally cried. Here’s a kid who is only a few games into her freshman season and she is so passionate. It wasn’t the fact that she had gotten hurt, it was the fact that she couldn’t play that was so upsetting.”

    When Raetzman returned to action, she came up swinging.

    The Elk Grove, Ill., native was named the Southeastern Conference’s Freshman of the Week after scoring the match-winning goal in the team’s upset of then-No. 13 Florida and then provided two assists in a 3-0 victory against Mississippi State.

    “I definitely wanted to get back on the field playing and help our team,” Raetzman said. “No one wants to sit out and just watch games, everyone wants to be playing.”

    True, but perhaps few enjoy playing as much as Raetzman does.

    “She has so much passion for the game,” Lipsitz said. “She loves to play and loves to train every day, and that’s something that is sometimes missing in great players. She loves to train and you can tell with how hard she plays. That’s something you see from a lot of our players, they love to train together and play, and we have so much fun doing it.”

    It is the rookie’s trademark toughness that has helped characterize the attitude of her entire team.

    “I have always been super competitive, ever since I was a little girl,” Raetzman said. “Coming here, I just want to help the team as much to my abilities and the best I can. I always try my best no matter what.”

    That competitiveness also gives Raetzman an edge against those taller, more experienced players. Her work-ethic is second to none.

    “Being so competitive can just make you always want to go at it and always compete, and really push others, not just yourself,” Raetzman said. “I am always trying to get the best out of everyone including myself.”

    Raetzman will lead her team into its first SEC road test of the season this weekend, traveling to Arkansas and LSU. If it’s possible, now that she’s back from injury, she may even appreciate the opportunity to play even more than she already did.

    “She was just like a kid in a candy shop,” Lipsitz said of Raetzman’s return to the field Friday. “She just could not wait to get out there and touch the ball. She loves the big games and she is excited to be a part of it. She played well.”

    For Raetzman, it is a culture of excellence that Lipsitz has created that has helped fuel both her own success and that of the team.

    “Everyone is supporting and always trying to push themselves to the limits and become a better person,” Raetzman said. “The atmosphere at practices and at school here has really helped get me into everything."