The Colorado connection

By Robert Myers Sports Editor

Head soccer coach Lang Wedemeyer has players on his roster from seven states and three provinces, but while not generating the same quantity of players as states such as South Dakota and Minnesota (five each), Colorado has given the Jackrabbits a pair of offensive weapons in junior forward Diana Potterveld and sophomore forward Shelby Raper.

Living 100 miles apart, the two surprisingly did not meet each other until Raper’s first visit to SDSU as their ages always kept them in separate leagues.

“I was really excited to get another Colorado girl here,” said Potterveld, who at the time of Raper’s recruitment was the only Colorado native on the team. “I’m really glad she chose SDSU.”

Raper said she did not know ahead of time about Potterveld until she looked at the roster. Knowing a fellow Coloradan on the team certainly helped, but it was ultimately the whole team that sold Raper on SDSU.

“The team is very family-oriented,” Raper said. “It felt like home here and it’s definitely not close to home, so to feel like I was at home – it was saying something so I felt like God was leading me here for the right reasons.”

Neither Potterveld nor Raper ever had serious mutual interest with any Colorado schools and Summit League rival Denver passed on the opportunity to recruit them. Wedemeyer, however, saw what they could do for his team and didn’t miss the chance.

“I saw them both at showcases,” Wedemeyer said. “I saw Diana play down in Texas and I saw Shelby in Illinois playing with her club team from Colorado. They’re different types of players, but they’ve both showed a lot of potential.”

Wedemeyer’s foresight has paid off as both players broke into the starting lineups their freshman years. This year, Potterveld is a team captain and leads the team in goals, points and assists while Raper is third in goals.

Over the summer Potterveld and Raper had a chance to hone their skills and strengthen their bond, playing on the same team in the W-League.

“We traveled to California, to Washington and played two or three other teams in Colorado too so we had a lot of travelling to do, a lot of games against really good teams,” Potterveld said. “The LA Blues has maybe seven or eight girls that are in the national team pool, so it was really good competition and it was nice to play with her against such high quality players.”

Potterveld admitted that their team didn’t fare well the record wise, but still called it a valuable learning experience and a great chance to get to know Raper. 

Actually, it was Raper who caused Potterveld to join the team, providing her former club coach, now coaching in the W-League, Potterveld’s contact information.

“Neither one of us really knew people on the team so getting to know each other just this summer and hanging out and being able to sleep in these little tiny couch hotel beds was definitely one of our first memories of bonding and it’s just kind of skyrocketed from there,” Raper said.

Beyond the W-League, Potterveld and Raper also had a chance to bond while Raper lived with Potterveld and teammate Megan Graf for two weeks before school started. Through these experiences, Raper has come up with plenty of compliments for Potterveld.

“My favorite thing about Di is that she’s very inspirational,” Raper said. “She’s not only a great player but she’s also really smart in the classroom and has a heart that’s really caring and will do anything for her teammates and fellow classmates.”

Likewise, Potterveld has found characteristics to treasure about Raper.

“She’s pretty much always happy,” Potterveld said. “She’s always smiling. She always likes to crack some jokes. I don’t know. We just have a connection, I think just coming from Colorado.”

As Wedemeyer mentioned they are different types of players, but that has given Raper a chance to see how Potterveld can compete with bigger defenders in the middle and get off a shot no matter what. At the same time, Raper’s confidence in one-on-one situations has inspired Potterveld.

The two may get a chance to go home in a couple of weeks, providing they can finish among the top four teams in the league which would allow them to travel to Denver, Colo. to compete in the Summit League Championships.

“Of course we wish it was at home [in Brookings], but since we can’t decide that right now for this year, it’s nice to be able to go back home,” Potterveld said. “I know I’d have a big crowd there so we’ve got to focus on the next game so we can win that and make it to the tournament.”

Until then and going forward, the two will share their special Colorado connection.

“Colorado girls like to be together of course,” Potterveld said. “We miss home; we miss the mountains, so it’s nice to get together, because we can talk about that type of thing.”