Gameday+ | Meet a Buckeye: Kylie Knight, women's soccer

Ray Stein The Columbus Dispatch
Kylie Knight [Kyle Robertson/Dispatch]

Kylie Knight

Sport: Women’s soccer

Age: 21

Year: Senior

Hometown: Plymouth, Mich.

Major: Business, human resources specialization

Question: Based on my mad map skills, your hometown of Plymouth, Michigan, looks to be about 20 miles away from Ann Arbor and about 70 miles away from Lansing. And yet you end up in Columbus, Ohio?

Answer: Yes, I live in an area dominated by intense Michigan and Michigan State fans! Pretty much everyone from my high school went to one of those schools, and if they didn’t they still pick one to root for! My choice to head to Columbus definitely wasn’t popular with people back home.

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Q: How did the recruiting process work for you, because it seems like Ohio State stole you from your home state?

A: Growing up playing club soccer in Michigan, every girl dreams of playing at Michigan or Michigan State. I went to their games, camps and clinics. So I looked at each school, along with many of my club teammates. Honestly, neither school expressed interest the way Ohio State did. The coaches at OSU made me feel like they would be lucky to have me, whereas at the (in-state) schools I felt like I would be lucky to go there.

When Ohio State reached out the first time I was hesitant because I didn’t know much about OSU, and grew up in an environment where it was constantly bashed. However, I saw how successful the program had been so I scheduled a visit. It took about 10 seconds for me to realize this was the place for me. The sense of family and Buckeye pride on campus is overwhelming, and something I knew I wanted to be a part of.

Q: So OSU took the girl out of Michigan. But have they taken Michigan out of the girl?

A: Yes, I am a fully converted Ohioan! Obviously there are still things I love about Michigan, but my heart definitely lies in the Buckeye State. Whenever I go home I always make sure to wear as much OSU gear as possible to show off my love for the school. I used to hate all the negative comments people made to me, but now I love it because I have gotten good at firing back!

Q: What are some of the Pure Michigan things that you appreciate most about your home state?

A: The thing I love 100 percent is the northern part of the state. We had a house on the lake in Charlevoix (about four hours north of Ann Arbor) and it is one of the most special places to me. The lakes, sand dunes, small towns, boat rides and bonfires up there are things I look forward to the most.

Q: What about professional sports? For instance, have you sworn off the Red Wings in favor of the Blue Jackets?

A: When Detroit teams aren’t playing teams from Ohio I definitely want them to be successful and will cheer them on. However, I will root for Ohio teams every time over teams from Michigan.

Q: Who else do you root for?

A: In terms of soccer I love watching Manchester City and am a big fan of our U.S. Women’s National Team.

Q: Let’s talk some more about your relationship with Ohio State. On a scale of 1 to 10, what would you say your level of satisfaction and enjoyment has been at OSU?

A: On a scale of 1 to 10 my level of satisfaction would be 100. I seriously can’t put into words how much I have loved my time here. I literally get chills every time I think about what a special place OSU is to me. Whether it’s training, walking to class, trying new restaurants or just spending time with my team, I get excited to do it all.

Sometimes I take the long way through campus, or take my time getting places because I love every second of being at Ohio State. There is nothing better than doing O-H-I-O, singing “Carmen Ohio,” chanting “Go Bucks” and being able rep the Block O. I feel incredibly lucky to attend Ohio State and wouldn’t change a thing about my experience.

Q: Has Ohio State been more fulfilling academically or athletically?

A: Both, but I’d say it has been more fulfilling athletically. As a senior now it is so cool to look back at how much I grown thanks to what soccer has taught me. I’m a completely different player and have matured so much as a person, so it is rewarding to see that progress.

Q: I learned that one experience you undertook while here was a Soles4Souls trip to the Dominican Republic last year. How long were you there and what sorts of things did you do?

A: Soles4Souls was one of the most eye-opening experiences I’ve had. It was only a week but we crammed about three weeks’ worth of things into our trip! We traveled throughout the Dominican and distributed shoes to the children. We also walked through the community with locals to get an idea of the conditions they live in.

We did some cultural immersion activities as well like visiting larimar mines on the side of a volcano, touring Christopher Columbus’ house and trying unique foods. My favorite part was playing with the kids in each community; they were so happy to run around and be silly. It really put a lot of things in perspective, and made me grateful for all that I have.

Q: On to soccer. What did it mean to you to be part of the first OSU team to win an outright Big Ten championship, in 2017?

A: Winning the Big Ten was by far my favorite memory from my career. We had an amazing group of girls, awesome support staff and coaches that paved the way for success. Some of the games in that season were some of the most exhilarating experiences I have ever had, and holding up that trophy after our Indiana game is something I will never forget.

Q: You’ve played in all but one game in your Ohio State career; is that a testament to healthy living or good luck?

A: I have been fortunate to not have to deal with injuries — knock on wood! It’s a little luck, but I focus a lot on recovery and trying to live a healthy lifestyle. Fitness and nutrition have always been important to me, and I try to stretch and roll out regularly. I also prioritize sleep a lot, to the point where my teammates make fun of me for my early bedtime!

Q: As a center back, you’re not part of the attack much; at what point did you accept defense was your ticket?

A: I’m rarely part of our offense. I recently started going into the attack on our corners, but prior to that I barely crossed the midfield line! I have always loved to defend — blocking shots, slide tackling, picking off passes. I also get excited by shutouts. We could win 10-1 but I would be mad we even gave up one goal.

Early on I accepted I didn’t have the knack for goal that you need as an attacking player, my skillset and mentality is much more defensive.

Q: Do you remember the circumstances of the last goal you scored?

A: I actually haven’t scored a goal. That’s coming this season, though!

Q: How much did it mean to you to be named a team captain this year?

A: It’s a huge honor. When you look at the previous captains in the program there are some absolutely amazing women, so it means a lot to have my name among them. I have been really lucky to have the leaders that I have throughout my career to look up to and learn from.

Q: This Sunday against Wisconsin is your final regular-season home game; how will you deal with the emotion of that?

A: It will definitely be hard for me emotionally. I’ve had a hard time this season thinking about college soccer ending but it has motivated me to play my absolute hardest every game. Our last home game won’t be any different. I tell myself I can let the emotion get to me and regret not playing my best, or use it to give it my all and have a great year. The only way to keep our season going is to win, and the only way I can help make that happen is to be at my best.

Q: What are your future plans? Are you ready for a job after graduation, or is more school in the offing?

A: I will be looking for a job. I thought about grad school but most companies want to see work experience after college. I have had a couple internships during the summer that have put me in a good position for finding a job. Right now I’m not focusing too much on the future and just trying to enjoy every moment of my last soccer season!

Q: Your Ohio State bio says you like movies; do you have an all-time favorite?

A: I absolutely love sports movies, but my all-time favorite is “The Blind Side.” I love the storyline, and the fact that it’s based on a true story makes it even better. Basically I love every aspect of the movie!

Q: Various photos in your time at OSU show you with curly and straight hair; do you have a preference that your hair sometimes doesn’t obey?

A: Until the past couple years I always hated my curly hair so I would straighten it. As I’ve gotten older I have learned to accept the curls, and have gotten sick of spending the time to straighten it! The curls definitely do not always work with me.

Q: You obviously have a lot going for you; who has been your inspiration for this journey?

A: Definitely my dad, Chris. He played soccer with me for hours in our front yard, drove me to and from practice, pushed me to do extra training and was always my biggest cheerleader. He also was my best friend and strongest role model. He was the most passionate, driven, selfless and hardworking person I have ever met and he had the ability to bring out the best in everyone. He truly lived life to the fullest. Even through his battle with cancer he kept a positive attitude and remained strong in the worst times. All of these things have inspired me. My dad wanted nothing more than for me live my dream of playing Big Ten soccer so I try my best to make him proud.

rstein@dispatch.com

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