NORMAN — Renae Cuellar always seems to have a smile on her face. Whether she is racing up the soccer field on her way to another goal for Oklahoma or finishing up a two-hour practice in the heat, she has the look of someone who enjoys what she does.
That smile hides the fierce competitive nature of the senior that comes out every time she walks onto a soccer field. It's an attitude Cuellar was taught at a young age and one she has carries with her every day.
“I've been playing since I was six years old,” Cuellar said. “And since I was six, my dad told me make sure you hit them first. I was always a bit thinner. Way thinner when I was younger. I've always followed that advice. I think it's more of a physical challenge to play against defenders who are always bigger than me. You hit them first, you get first to the ball, then they are not going to be able to get you off.
“I like to win balls and I like to get physical, get in there and have a little one-on-one time. “
Cuellar leads the Sooners (7-8-4, 3-3-2) into the 2012 Big 12 Championships today winners of three of their last four games. They will take on fourth-seeded Texas (7-10-1, 4-4) in the first round at Blossom Soccer Stadium in San Antonio.
The Longhorns defeated OU 1-0 earlier in the season. The Sooners trail in the all-time series 10-7-1.
Cuellar landed in Norman this summer, not many Oklahoma soccer fans knew who she was. In three short months, that has all changed. Since transferring from Arizona, the La Puente, Calif. native has become one of the most decorated players in the program's history. That includes being named Monday to the Big 12 Conference Offensive Player of the Year.