Marc Narducci: Patience pays off for Haddonfield's Kirk

Kylie Kirk is a top soccer midfielder.
Kylie Kirk is a top soccer midfielder.
Posted: September 16, 2013

Haddonfield senior Kylie Kirk had rarely spent time on the sidelines, but a series of events last year changed that, gave her a greater appreciation of soccer, and opened her eyes to the business of college athletics.

Among the top midfielders in South Jersey, Kirk suffered a badly sprained ankle in late September and didn't return until Haddonfield's final game of the season in the state tournament, a 1-0, second-round defeat to Cinnaminson on Nov. 8.

"It was the first time I ever have been hurt, and it really was just a bummer because I love the high school season so much," Kirk said.

Shortly after the season, another bummer occurred when Kirk contacted mononucleosis. That is the worst time to get sick, for a person being recruited as a junior - not that there ever is a good time.

So even after recovering, she was far from 100 percent right away.

And that is when the reality of big-time college recruiting hit Kirk. A number of schools that had been in constant contact suddenly stopped calling.

"I understand the position schools were in," Kirk said. "Even though I showed pretty well my sophomore year, they needed to see me one more time, and it's hard to take somebody with mono over somebody you are seeing who is healthy."

Yet not all the colleges dropped out, and one that remained persistent was Indiana.

Kirk began feeling better in the spring and played with her club team, the PDA Ginga, in a national tournament in Las Vegas. The Indiana coaches were there, having continued to monitor Kirk.

She played well, the coaches evidently liked what they saw, and by early June, a scholarship was offered.

Kirk accepted it during the last week of June, making an oral commitment to the school. High school recruits may not sign official letters of intent until Feb. 5, and NCAA rules prohibit colleges from discussing recruits until they sign.

Kirk is a quality student-athlete whose main skill on the soccer field is getting her teammates involved in the flow. In only eight games last season, she had three goals and 10 assists.

"Kylie is like having another coach on the field," first-year Haddonfield head coach and former assistant Lori Quintavalle said. "She is a great leader on and off the field, has such a hard work ethic - the first person to practice, the last to leave."

Even when she was hurt, Kirk said, some other schools stayed involved, but none to the degree of Indiana.

And now she can play her senior season in a relaxed state, the doubt about her soccer future now gone.

"When I made my commitment, mostly I was relieved," Kirk said. "I wasn't sure after being injured and having mono if I was going to play college soccer, so finally having it done was exciting to have the opportunity to play."

Through adversity, Kirk said she has gained an even greater appreciation of having the chance to compete. It's the same appreciation the Indiana coaches will have now that they showed patience, which will be rewarded in getting a quality recruit.

For those who didn't continue recruiting Kirk, it could be the biggest bummer of all.

Contact Marc Narducci

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