It takes a versatile — not to mention talented — athlete to play two sports at the NCAA Division I level.

McKaela Schmelzer proved her ability as a star for Harlem’s soccer and basketball teams when she was in high school. But in her second year at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Schmelzer’s adaptability has been tested again.

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Last year’s Horizon League Freshman of the Year was asked to switch from being a defender to a midfielder, and it’s a move that has paid dividends for both Schmelzer and the undefeated Panthers (15-0-3).

“We’ve asked her to be a little bit more involved in playmaking and scoring opportunities and she has,” UW-Milwaukee coach Troy Fabiano said.

Schmelzer’s six goals are tied for third-most for Milwaukee, which begins postseason play Thursday as the No. 1 seed and host of the Horizon League Tournament. The sophomore’s 16 points are also fourth-most on a senior-led squad. Schmelzer said that transition wasn’t easy at first, but she feels good about where she is now.

“In high school and club I played a little bit of center mid but college is just way different,” Schmelzer said. “You have to do a lot more running, which I like, but also get more in an attacking position, which I’m not used to. I feel like now I’m really in the flow of it and more comfortable with it.”

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Fabiano believes Schmelzer’s competitiveness helped her adapt to the change without too much trouble.

“She loves to compete,” Fabiano said. “We try to teach that to all of our players, but it takes a special kid that comes in and wants to compete and she does that no matter what we’re doing. She pushes herself to be and that’s why I think she’s successful.”

Schmelzer and the Panthers are looking to carry their success deep into the postseason. Milwaukee won the Horizon League regular season title for the third straight year and for the 17th time in the past 18 years, but the team’s sights are set on earning a title they fell short of last season.

“Our goals overall have changed just because last year we lost in the conference championship, and this year we’re going to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Schmelzer said.

Depending on how far the Panthers make it in the postseason, Schmelzer’s first basketball game action could be delayed. Schmelzer redshirted for the Milwaukee women’s basketball team last year, but will take the court this season after soccer concludes. In the meantime, she’s finding a way to balance the two sports and school, which is far from easy. But she’s motivated to make it work.

“Being able to play (basketball) this year I have a different mindset,” Schmelzer said. “I feel like I need to be at practice and get in the gym extra. Obviously, time off is nice, but I’m looking forward to playing more than my time off.”

Milwaukee’s first women’s basketball game is scheduled for November 10 against Drake in Des Moines.

This article is written by Adam Kradle from Rockford Register Star, Ill. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.



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