Happily married - despite contrary reports - U.S. goalie Hope Solo hits the field to prepare for tonight's game.


Were the Arizona Wildcats' best goal-scorer to write an essay about how she spent her summer vacation, it would be a doozy.

Forward Renae Cuellar, a junior-to-be, played for Mexico in the FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup in Germany. She scored two goals during her team's run, which ended Sunday with a loss to South Korea.

She's not the only Wildcat to play in Germany; Ana Montoya, an incoming UA player, comes off the bench for Colombia, which will play Nigeria in the semifinals Sunday.

Via e-mail, the Star caught up with Cuellar.

Here's a look at her experience, including why the California native played for Mexico:

How she made it

Cuellar had been in the United States national team pipeline since 13, and participated in its under-14 and under-19 national team camps. She switched to the Mexican team last summer.

Her maternal grandfather, Faustino Cuellar, was born in Mexico, giving her eligibility.

"It was not odd," she said, "because I am proud of my heritage and I have a passion to represent my country and where my family comes from.

"I travel to Mexico often now for camps, and it makes me appreciate my heritage more and have a better understanding about it.

"My teammates are embracing - there are a few of us from the USA as well. We are a great team, and I love them all."

Representing a national team was important, she said.

"This was always a dream of mine to compete in a World Cup and represent my country," she said. "I have known that this tournament was coming up once we qualified, and I was determined to make this team."

How they did

Mexico lost in the quarterfinals, but Cuellar was a star. She scored the game-winner in a 1-0 victory over England and another goal in a 3-3 tie with Japan. She played 360 minutes - or every minute of Mexico's four games. El Tri went 1-1-2.

"Playing for this team means a lot to me (along with) representing my country," she said. "Everything I have sacrificed in my life to train or practice is paying off now."

Cuellar said she battled nerves in the World Cup, but they "mean I really care and I want to do great out there."

"When we started playing, it wasn't (as) hard," she said about the nerves. "Once I step on that field, my mentality is the same and I know that I will go out there and play my heart out - and (I) have prepared for this all along."


In years past, Cuellar played soccer tournaments in Italy and Brazil before traveling to Germany this summer.

"The best part about being overseas is getting to see new cultures, travel places," she said. "And it makes you appreciate a lot of what you have back home.

"The worst part would be being away from my family, the people I love, being out of my comfort zone with what I am used to."

The future

Cuellar is excited to play for UA coach Lisa Oyen, who served as an assistant before finishing the 2009 season as the interim boss.

The World Cup will help her game, too.

"Besides professional soccer, this level is the highest, and just one practice can improve your game (and) fitness as well," Cuellar said. "Training and playing at this level all summer will help me succeed in the Pac-10 this year - and, of course, most importantly, help my team."