Buffs soccer captain Hannah Sharts talks about playing every minute, scoring as a defender and how she’s using her name, image and likeness to help promote female student-athletes.
You began your collegiate career at UCLA. Growing up near Los Angeles with a mom who was an alum of the soccer program, did you always want to play at UCLA?
UCLA was in my blood. It was special to follow in my mom’s footsteps because she was part of the fight to get UCLA women’s soccer to Division 1 (D-1). She essentially made it possible for me to play D-1 soccer at UCLA. She played on the club team, but never actually got to play D-1. I got to live her D-1 dream.
When you explored transferring after two seasons, what about Colorado attracted you?
Colorado recruited me the first time around, but I hadn’t visited the campus because I was focused on California schools. But the coaching staff here — they care so much about their players — and I love the Boulder community. Plus, I loved that it was in the Pac-12. The coaches believed in me, and that’s something that I didn’t get as much at UCLA.
Since joining the CU team, how has your role changed?
It’s a big adjustment going from not getting many minutes to being thrown into the highest intensity games. I tried to be a sponge and learn from the players around me — not overstep boundaries and work hard. Going into my super senior year, I have all of these different experiences. From being on the bench at UCLA to taking on a more substantial role here, I try to be the best example I can be.
Can you describe your responsibilities as a defender?
I’m right in front of the goalkeeper. My job is to cover for everyone else. It’s high risk. You have to be cautious of where you are at all times and organize those around you, like the goalie does, but you’re higher up the field. And I like to score, too, so I’m lucky because I go up for set pieces and corner kicks.
The last two years you’ve upped your points scored. How are you able to score or assist on goals while still anchoring the defense?
I’m very hard on myself in terms of corner kicks. I’m trying to convert those, whether it’s heading it across to someone or finishing it myself. I believe I’m going to score every time I go up there. Scoring is a mentality you need to have. It’s a hunger.
Is there a lot of pushing and shoving in the box?
I get fouled a ton. People pinch me, stomp on cleats. It gets rowdy. I’ve been trying to work on my vertical to give me an edge. If I can jump higher and be above everyone else with my size, it’ll help. But it’s a battle for sure.
You’ve led the team in minutes played over the last two seasons. How do you stay fresh?
A ritual I have is to drink beet juice before games. It helps prolong muscles from getting tired. But, honestly, I have so much love for the game that I’m not thinking I’m exhausted because I’m so grateful to be there.
What does it mean for you to be the first CU soccer player to win First Team Academic All-America by the College Sports Information Directors of America?
My parents were very good in school, and I try to make them proud. My grandpa used to tell me that you need to do three things in life: brush your teeth, do well in school and get A’s and no tattoos. I received that award in July. It was a few months before he passed. He was the first person I sent it to, and he loved it.
In March, Fowler Auto signed name, image and likeness (NIL) partnerships with you and eight other CU student-athletes. How did that come about?
I wasn’t looking for NIL deals. I didn’t want to make anything about me or distract from the team. But Fowler messaged me. I signed with them because I love that they were only signing female student-athletes and putting more female student-athletes on the map. That struck me. I am passionate about women in sports, and I’m involved in clubs on campus focused on that.
What are you looking forward to with your final season for the Buffaloes?
It’s going to be emotional. I’m looking forward to taking this team further than we have been before. That’s everyone’s goal. It was heartbreaking not to make the playoffs last season.
What are your plans for after graduation?
It’s my dream to play professionally. I would love to get drafted in the NWSL, the women’s pro league. But if not, I’d be open to overseas opportunities to see a new culture and experience soccer on a different side of the world.
Photos by Matt Tyrie