Kayla Fischer carries big goals into final season at Ohio State

Jonah Rosenblum
Record-Courier
Ohio State standout Kayla Fischer against Navy Sept. 5, 2021.

As Kayla Fischer prepared to graduate from Ohio State, she thought long and hard about her future.

Fischer, a Kent Roosevelt alum who has earned All-Big Ten honors the last two seasons for the Buckeyes' women's soccer team, worked to figure out the best fit academically.

Athletically, there was no question what she wanted to do.

"I mean I'm young once," Fischer said. "So I didn't want to stop playing."

There was also little question about where Fischer wanted to play, but she had to make sure her post-graduate academic plans could come together in Columbus. Ultimately, Fischer got into the nurse practitioner program at Ohio State and thus her decision to wear the scarlet and gray for one final season was a rather easy one.

"I couldn't wrap my head around telling the coaching staff I was going to go somewhere else," Fischer said. "Like I really enjoyed working with the coaches and everything. So really if I went somewhere else, yeah, I could have played, but it's really just Ohio State that I love playing soccer for."

Nor is Fischer planning to cruise through her final season in Columbus.

Asked about her goals for the 2022 campaign, Fischer characteristically started with team goals, and big team goals at that: winning the Big Ten and making the NCAA Final Four.

Fischer added that she is hoping to score 10 goals this season. (She set her previous high of six last year.)

"Just keeping my goals high," Fischer explained. "Because you can't reach them unless you set them high."

Talent, character stand out for Kayla Fischer

Buckeyes coach Lori Walker-Hock had little trouble providing a scouting report on Fischer, who has been among OSU's leading scorers from the moment she arrived on campus.

Number one, per Walker-Hock, is Fischer's devastating speed, something that was always apparent when Fischer played at Roosevelt, be it on the pitch or the basketball court.

"Number two is just her willingness to take players on one versus one," Walker-Hock said. "She is just a fierce competitor and she's willing to put her body in situations that probably a lot of players her age are not willing to do."

That is the fascinating part about Fischer.

She pairs a ferocious competitive spirit with a gentle spirit off the field.

"She's just a wonderful human being," Walker-Hock said. "She cares a lot about the people that are around her and she would do anything for her teammates and the coaching staff and then she's just the kind of person that always starts with, 'How are you doing?" She's always a genuine person."

As Walker-Hock put it, it's no surprise that Fischer is becoming a nurse practitioner, given her personality.

And yet as easygoing as she is off the field, Fischer plays soccer like a bull let out of the ring.

"As you get to know Kayla, the beauty of her is the contrast on the field," Walker-Hock said. "She's just a fierce competitor and she wants to win and she'll do just about anything to help her team win."

Kayla Fischer starts strong, keeps making strides

It didn't take long for Fischer to find success in Columbus.

Indeed, she scored her first college goal in her third game.

And that goal just so happened to be the game-winner in a 1-0 victory over Florida.

Six days later, the then-freshman tallied another goal against Morehead State and then accounted for both of the Buckeyes' goals in a 2-1 win over Purdue later in the season.

Fischer ended up earning Big Ten all-freshman honors, but the hard work was just beginning.

"My freshman year, I'd say I more had one move and it was just go dribble down the sideline, either shoot it or cross it," Fischer said. "So we've had to adapt to that a little bit."

"That's the biggest transition for a youth player with her God-given talent of speed is there's a lot of opportunities as a club player just to blow by defenses and I think it's a disservice when that's the only tool really that you have in your toolbox," Walker-Hock added. "As you get to the next level, you've got to have additional things other than just speed because you're going to come up against defenders who are equally as fast."

As the years have gone on, Fischer has added new moves and has maintained a steady level of production, following her four-goal freshman campaign with five goals apiece as a sophomore and junior and six as a senior.

As defenses hound her, Fischer has also become more of a facilitator, rising from a single assist as a freshman to seven last year.

"She's also got great partners," Walker-Hock said. "You put anything in and around the goal and [Kailyn Dudkovich] is going to knock it in, and then Emma Sears, who plays on the opposite flank, has just got tremendous pace and the two of them. Kayla and Emma, have created a lovely partnership."

Kayla Fischer begins 2022 campaign with an open mind

Fischer enters her final season aiming to make big improvements and hit big goals.

She also enters the 2022 campaign with gratitude for the chance to do something very few college players get to do — play a fifth year — after she and her teammates endured something very few college players have ever had to — having a soccer season pushed until the spring due to COVID-19.

"It's kind of like a bonus year," Fischer said. "[It's] kind of just like I can go in carefree and I wasn't even supposed to be here this year and just play. And if everything goes well, maybe I'll be playing again, but if not, just give it everything I have because it is my last year [at Ohio State], so it could be done."

The pause in Fischer's voice, wondering whether 2022 will be her final season, is because, per Walker-Hock, Fischer will have her chances to play professional soccer.

"She could play professionally, if that's something she wants to do, and so [we're] trying to develop her game so that door can be open for her if she chooses to walk through it and explore those opportunities," Walker-Hock said. "[In order to go pro], she's going to absolutely have to develop additional moves and be creative as far as how she could break down defenses and individually beat players who are equally as athletic as she is."

As the summer saunters on, Fischer will surely work hard on those moves as she takes aim at her best season yet for the Buckeyes.

And beyond this season?

Even for a self-described "big planner" like Fischer, that will have to wait.

"I'm kind of open to the idea [of playing professionally] and just seeing how this year will go," Fischer said. "I could be completely done playing after and have met all of those goals and just be really content with it and want to keep doing school, but if not, I definitely have thought about it, so I would just stop school for a little in the time being. You can only play once."

Kayla Fischer career stats

2018-2019: 4 G, A

2019-2020: 5 G, 5 A

2020-2021: 5 G, 4 A

2021-2022: 6 G, 7 A

Career Totals: 20 G, 17 A