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‘It’s been great:’ She’s a Division I soccer and basketball player, and she’s also studying engineering at UWM

McKaela Schmelzer

MILWAUKEE -- She earned Horizon League "Freshman of the Year" honors in 2016, but that's just one of many impressive accolades for McKaela Schmelzer, a dual-sport student-athlete.

"I was really set, in the middle of my basketball season senior year I really wanted to try it out. I mean, what did I have to lose?" Schmelzer said.

She's a Division I athlete in not one, but two sports at UW-Milwaukee -- soccer and basketball.

"Well when I first saw her play basketball, I was like, I don't care how many sports she wants to play. I want her in a Panthers' jersey and I want her on the floor," Kyle Rechlicz, UWM women's basketball coach said.

"It's been great. Obviously there's been good sides and bad sides but overall the people, the experiences, the places I've been, it's been wonderful," Schmelzer said.

Kyle Rechlicz

Schmelzer chose UWM because they were one of few schools on her radar that allowed her to play two sports, and while it may be challenging...

"The transition was probably the hardest part just because I can't be both places 100 percent of the time. Like soccer season I was there, but basketball season I only put in 8 hours a week while everybody else was putting in 20 so that was probably the hardest part for me," Schmelzer said.

Playing both has only made her a better athlete.

"She's honestly the most competitive player I've honestly ever coached," Rechlicz said.

McKaela Schmelzer

"For sure mentally. I think that's the biggest thing. Just being on two different teams and going through it two different times, it made it so much easier when I was here for basketball to come into soccer for the first preseason, so mentally I think they both prepared me for each other in a way," Schmelzer said.

She's taken her soccer skills to the court and her basketball skills to the pitch.

"McKaela is so fast. Part of that comes from her soccer game -- her foot speed and her foot work. In basketball, it's more of a stop and start game, so we're really working on that change of speed, within the game, then just being able to be consistent from one game to the next," Rechlicz said.

But Schmelzer's balancing act doesn't end with basketball and soccer. She's also a biomedical engineering student.

"It's a lot of math and science -- physics, calc, all that kind of stuff," Schmelzer said. "I have to take a lot of base classes for like, mechanical, civil, industrial, material and stuff like that, so I get kind of a viewing of everything in the engineering part. I've learned to manage time really well since I've been here, so that's obviously played a huge role."

McKaela Schmelzer

Looking ahead, Schmelzer will spend a lot of time practicing and studying throughout her collegiate career at UWM, but there's one valuable lesson her basketball coach wants her to learn this season.

"Just not losing confidence. It's just hard. Being a freshman anywhere in the country is hard. You go through ups and downs and you want them to walk away with just an understanding of what the game is about and be able to attack the next season," Rechlicz said.