King emerges as new leader for women’s soccer



By Boyd Hayes | Assistant Sports Editor

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Senior goalkeeper Kayla King kept the ball out of the net against Utah in a scoreless tie on Sunday, continuing a trend of consistency that started a year ago.

She closed out last season’s NCAA tournament as the clear starting goalie and leader of the team, a long way removed from the frustration and disappointment that colored her first two seasons.

Now a co-captain in her final season of college soccer, King can reflect on her long journey from possible failure to team pillar.

Prior to a breakout performance against Louisville last season, which included a lead-preserving penalty save, King was something of an enigma.

Coming out of high school as an All-State senior for DuPont Manual High School in Louisville, King was unable to live up to expectations, playing only five matches and failing multiple fitness tests in her first two seasons for UK.

“I came in as a freshman, fairly unknown and completely different than who I am today — different attitude, different ideas, different way of thinking about soccer and about goalkeeping especially,” King said.

At the August 20 media day, King struggled to describe her difficulties as an underclassman, at which point head coach Jon Lipsitz interjected “stubborn” behind a poorly feigned cough.

“It’s true, it’s true,” King laughed. “(I was) very unwilling to do what the coaches were telling me to do.”

Difficulty cooperating with the coaches wasn’t the only problem, as King’s lack of stamina on the field was a recurring issue.

With the team reaching new levels of success in her sophomore year, King was left with an option: change and grow with the team, or remain an underachiever.

“It was a decision that had to be made,” King said. “You break down and you say, ‘It’s not about me.’ It’s about what the coaches want, it’s about what the team wants and what’s best for the team. And that was my attitude.”

With this new attitude, King attacked a new training regimen, getting herself into shape. With improved fitness, King set an eye on leadership during the preseason of her junior year.

“I’m fit. I’ve done everything the coach has asked me to do. I may never play, but that still does not preclude me from working as hard as I possibly can and bringing it every day in practice,” King said. “And because I was able to do that, because that’s who I was, I can now keep (others) accountable for it.”

Joining King as a leader will be junior defender Arin Gilliland, who was a star for the Cats from the outset of her college career.

Unlike players such as Gilliland, King took a longer route to success.

“But now here they both are — both leaders, captains and incredibly special,” Lipsitz said.

With a team including 12 freshmen and 10 sophomores, King and Gilliland’s leadership may be invaluable this season.

After handling her questions dutifully at media day, King was quick on her way out of the press room, surely in a hurry to tend her flock — a new leader come to maturation.