After a season that ended just a match away from the Final Four in the NCAA women’s soccer championship, Lake City High product Camryn Wendlandt couldn’t be more sure.
She’s right at home at Baylor University in Waco, Texas.
WENDLANDT, A 6-foot sophomore forward who graduated early from Lake City High in 2015 to enroll at San Diego State, transferred to Baylor after the 2016 season and helped the Bears to a 15-6-3 record, just missing out on qualifying for last weekend’s College Cup in Philadelphia.
“Baylor recruited me in high school my junior year, but I was already pretty set on going to San Diego State,” Wendlandt said. “I respected the program, but just felt like San Diego State was a better fit at the time. When I decided to transfer, I sent an email to some of those teams that were recruiting me in high school, and Baylor was my first visit. I just fell in love with it and the family environment around there. Once I came back, I cancelled all my other flights and committed to Baylor. I couldn’t have been more sure of my decision.”
Some of the other schools Wendlandt contacted — and planned to visit — were Oregon, Cal-Santa Barbara and Washington State.
“She fit really well into where we are headed as a team,” Baylor coach Paul Jobson said. “She meshes really well into our family environment here.”
“Baylor just felt like home because of how joyful the people, coaches and my teammates are,” Wendlandt said. “Everything is on a family level, and I didn’t feel that as much at San Diego State.”
Wendlandt started in 18 of the Bears’ 22 matches this year, finishing with two goals on six shots on goal, and she had one assist.
BAYLOR ENTERED the Big 12 Conference tournament as the fifth seed after a 9-5-3 regular season.
The postseason was a different story.
“We knew how we matched up against our opponents,” Wendlandt said. “No matter what the rankings said, we just took it one game at a time.”
Baylor beat Texas 3-2 in overtime in the opening round, then Oklahoma State 3-0 and TCU 2-1 in overtime in the championship match.
“We weren’t playing to win a trophy,” Wendlandt said. “We just didn’t want to see our season end. It wasn’t about winning a title. We just wanted to keep going.”
And they did, beating Rice 3-2 in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in Waco, then beat USC on penalty kicks for a 2-1 victory in the second round in College Station, Texas. Baylor then beat Notre Dame 3-2 in overtime in College Station to advance to the quarterfinals.
“We started doing really well in the NCAAs,” Wendlandt said. “We didn’t put too much into ourselves. We just wanted to keep playing as long as the Lord would let us.”
That journey came to an end with a 4-0 loss to Duke on Nov. 24 in a quarterfinal match in Durham, N.C.
“I’m really proud of the work we put in this year,” Wendlandt said. “The way we finished, it just makes us more excited for next season. We’ve already met with our strength coach and doing what it takes to get to the College Cup next year. We don’t start practices until January, but we’re all really excited to keep working toward next year.”
Wendlandt added that she has no regrets on the past year.
“The Big 12 is one of the Power 5 conferences in the NCAA, and extremely competitive,” Wendlandt said. “It’s really cool to be challenged, and in practice, each day is a competition. It’s definitely a tough place to be, but I’d rather be challenged rather than just have things handed to me. This season was a blast, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’m really thankful to be here.”
Jason Elliott is sports writer for the Coeur d’Alene Press. He can be reached by telephone at (208) 664-8176, Ext. 2020 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JECdAPress.