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CU soccer star Civana Kuhlmann gets second chance with the sport that hurt her

Centennial native Kuhlmann overcame four surgeries at Stanford before transferring to Colorado to pursue soccer and a better understanding of her mental health.

BOULDER, Colo. — The long and painful road to recovery was the same road that led Civana Kuhlmann back home.

"I think deep down, I always knew I'd play again, because I wouldn't allow it to be any other way," she said.

The newest Colorado Buffalo soccer star is making yet another comeback after her fourth surgery in her college career.

"I blew out my knee in 2019, which was my ACL and meniscus and all of the good stuff. Then, six months later, I redid my meniscus. In January of 2021, I got my right hip repaired, and then this February of 2022, I did my left hip," she said.

Reeling from her fourth and final injury as a Cardinal, Kuhlmann graduated from Stanford University in 2022 and moved back home to Colorado and eventually joined the Buffs as a fifth-year player. While she said she's close to 95 percent this season, she said don't trust what you see on the highlight reel.

"The smiles you see after goals and on gamedays are because the weeks aren't always easy," Kuhlmann said.

Nor were they easy for the past years in Palo Alto. While the highs were the highest -- winning two NCAA national championships -- the lows were quite possibly the lowest. Kuhlmann and the Cardinal lost their friend and goalkeeper Katie Meyer last year when she took her own life.

"Today is six months since we lost Katie, and so I wanted her name more prominently with the pink heart right there since six months ago we lost the brightest light," she said as she pointed to her wrist band with her friend's name.

It's caused Kuhlmann to check in with her own mental health.

"I've been through a lot physically, which led to more physical resilience, but more than anything, I've had to manage more than two 450 day injury comebacks, and that's a lot of time sitting with yourself and sitting with your own thoughts," she said. "I've learned that that's the biggest difference between Civana before she went through three years of injury and after, just how she learned to navigate the mental health."

As she turns the page, she couldn't write her final collegiate chapter any better: a fresh start in her own home state.

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Credit: Civana Kuhlmann

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"I can't think of a better place to bring me back to the sport I love and bring love back to this sport," Kuhlmann said. "Unfortunately, my nieces couldn't be out here today, it's the one game they couldn't be at, but it's just really amazing to be out in front of my family and friends every week."

Kuhlmann is doing everything this final year for her family.

"It's always for them," she said. "And finally a little for me, as well."

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