Michelle Sandage earned the reputation of being one of the most physical soccer players in Northern Nevada.
When you played against Sandage you knew you had been in a soccer match. There was no finesse, not her style. She was a blue-collar performer who didn't mind doing the things that don't often get noticed.
Sandage is now taking her physical style of game down the road a couple of hours. The talented Carson High senior signed a national letter-of-intent to play for William Jessup University, a tiny NAIA Division I Christian school in Rocklin, Calif.
Sandage had been looking at Division I Long Island University after taking a recruiting trip back East, but in the end she chose WJU mostly because of the proximity. It's close enough that friends and family can watch her home games, and WJU coach Jaime Howard admitted she used that in her recruiting pitch.
"She was guest playing for a California team," Howard said. "I was really impressed with her; her field awareness and her physicality. I sent her an email. She wasn't sure at first (about coming to WJU). I asked Randy (Roser) about her, and he spoke very highly of her."
When Sandage visited the campus, she liked what she saw. WJU has an enrollment of about 1,000 students.
"Randy has been my mentor," Sandage said. "I talked to him about it, and he knew Jaime. He spoke highly of Jaime. Jaime is awesome, and the girls I stayed with were very welcoming. They have a pretty good team."
Howard said WJU went 13-3 last year, beating three Division II schools by three goals each.
Howard welcomes Sandage and her style of play with open arms. She wants a physical player on her back row.
"I love it," Howard said. "She's not dirty. She is not afraid to make contact. You don't see that as much in the girls game (in high school). I'm really excited about getting Michelle. She's a phenomenal player and a phenomenal student. Our whole team is excited about getting her."
Sandage doesn't, and never will, apologize for her style of play.
"I want to win the ball, and I'll do whatever it takes," Sandage said. "I was one of the bigger players when I was 12 or 13, and I figured I might as well use my size to my advantage."
Sandage has plenty of back line experience, and she's excited at the thought of playing center fullback. Howard expects her to start, and that's music to any recruits ear.
"It feels great," Sandage said. "It (center fullback) is one of my strongest positions. I feel like more of a director there."
Roser said that the college game is played at a much more physical level than the high school game.
"Michelle probably leads in yellow cards (in high school), but when we go to a club tournament she doesn't get called for many fouls." Roser said. "You coach it (physical play). A lot of other teams hated our physical play. Our job in high school is to get them ready for college ball. Playing physical is what you see in college."