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Hartman lives up to nickname as Kofa defender earns top honor
Not many freshman soccer players show up to tryouts and ask to play defense, but 2012-13 Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Club Girls Soccer Player of the Year Nicole Hartman was an exception to the rule.
Hartman grew up playing rec soccer with her male counterparts, who initially thought they could hide her in the backfield.
“They didn't really give me a chance,” the senior said. “They would always stick me in the back hoping I wouldn't touch the ball much, but they eventually realized that I could help them play and help them defend so it definitely made me more competitive.”
From there she moved to a travel team along with Gila Ridge forward Sheridan Smith, whose father coined Hartman's infamous nickname that resides on her white truck's licence plate.
“Whenever we would go to Phoenix for tournaments, people would always run at me,” Hartman said. “They would try to knock each other over and so whenever they'd try to knock me over they'd knock themselves over.”
Smith's father anointed her the “Brick Wall.”
“When you watch her play, it's very suiting,” Kofa coach Marisela Velasquez said. “You can't think of a better nickname.”
As a freshman, Hartman was told there was already a very good sweeper on the Kings' squad and that she'd probably be relegated to an outside position. But before she knew it, she was starting in the middle.
In a game against Cibola, Hartman showed Velasquez she had made the right decision.
“At that time it was Cibola that was just dominating everybody,” Velasquez said. “Everyone else you could tell was intimidated when they stepped on the field. I think one of the first 50-50 balls, (Hartman) went right up there with one of their top forwards and knocked her down like it was nothing. It was kind of then you knew she was a hard-nosed player. Whether she's going up against the best team or the worst team, it's the same mentality.”
Hartman also won the Gila Valley Player of the Year, letting the region know that the glory isn't always in the goals.
“It's nice to see because it shows people do understand the concept of soccer and the game and everything it entails,” Velasquez said. “They understand what a vital position she plays and if it wasn't for her in the back and our defensive effort in general, a lot of the games we probably wouldn't have won.”