Kayla Dye started her season as a freshman forward who had to battle with junior and senior forwards for every minute of playing time. But her opportunity to start came with a teammate’s injury. Now she is the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) Player of the Year.
Dye’s eight goals and eight assists were good for the second most points among SLIAC players. But Head Coach Luigi Scire said it was her composure and balanced play that led to her awards.
“She’s not just a finisher, in my mind she is already a complete player,” Scire said. “She knows when she needs to score or when she isn’t in a position to score she is going to find a teammate who can finish on that play.”
Dye’s first start of the season came against the No. 1 team in the country at that time, Washington University in St. Louis. She found out a day before the game and said her nerves were getting to her, but her team surrounded her with confidence.
Dye said she received guidance from the entire team but the words that stuck with her were from Assistant Coach Lori Khazen.
“(Khazen) told me that she wasn’t worried,” Dye said. “Sometimes she said she is worried about players because they don’t know the game, but she said I knew the game better than anyone.”
Dye took the field and scored the game’s first goal. She stole the ball from a defender’s back pass to the keeper and chipped it over the keeper to give Webster a 1-0 lead. The Gorloks lost the game 2-1, but Dye started every game of the season after. That included both SLIAC Tournament games for Webster in route to their 2014 SLIAC Championship.
She will start her first NCAA tournament game on Saturday Nov. 14 at the University of Chicago.
Dye led Webster this season in overall points with 10 goals and nine assists, a feat that hasn’t been done by a freshman since current senior forward Kristin Montgomery did it three years ago. Dye believes Montgomery probably had a large factor in her success.
“I don’t make it discreet when I get down on myself,” Dye said. “(Montgomery) was always the first one to come and be like ‘you’re fine, shake it off.’”
Montgomery, who was named SLIAC Tournament MVP, said Dye is someone who she expects will break a lot of Webster records in the next three years.
She is the first player since 2008 to win both SLIAC Player of the Year in the same season. Dye said even though she is young and undersized, her soccer mind is what has made her so successful.
“It’s easy for me to see everything in front of me and even before it happens,” Dye said. “I can see where they should be and I know where they are going to go.”
Dye said that connection is even stronger with her fellow freshmen teammates. Brianna Pagan, Elena Bloma and Sydney Tedesco all started for Webster in the SLIAC Championship game, but Dye said their chemistry was apparent since the beginning of the season.
She said in team drills when the freshmen were separated from upper-classmen many times the newcomers were winning. And many times Dye said she couldn’t help but think about what the team will be three years from now.
“If we stick together like this then we can be unstoppable,” Dye said. “I don’t how we did it but we click so well.”
Scire believes that the “great players” make their largest jump in talent between their freshman and sophomore season.
“Now they have an understanding of what it really takes to be successful at the collegiate level,” Scrie said. “I’m more excited about what they can provide us in the year 2015.”
Scire also likes how his defense will be impacted by advances from defenders like Tedesco and Bloma. The defense held Principia to zero shots in the first half in the 2-1 victory.
SLIDESHOW PHOTOS BY JULIA PESCHEL/THE JOURNAL
Webster earned its automatic bid to the 2014 NCAA Championship Tournament with a SLIAC title for the third year in a row. Webster will play at the University of Chicago on Saturday Nov. 15.
Chicago lost in its conference championship game to Wash U, but is still ranked second in the region. The only shared competition between Webster and Chicago are games against Millikin University, which were within 10 days of each other. Both teams won but Chicago had a two point higher goal differential.
Senior and 2014 SLIAC Defensive Player of the Year, Amy Schield also expects to return for Webster for her third NCAA Championship Tournament game. She was out of the SLIAC Championship game with a sore shoulder, but said trainers won’t be able to keep her off the field this Saturday.