New feats and bolstering leadership: The future of K-State soccer

Going up for a header, sophomore defender Kenzi Gillispie tries to make contact with the ball and score in the game on Sept. 9, 2022 against Yale University. The Wildcats won 1-0. (Archive photo by Macey Franko | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State soccer finished their record-breaking 2022 season with a quick exit from the Big 12 tournament. While only a brief appearance in the tournament, the ticket itself was a feat for the program.

“Making it there was just the first step,” sophomore forward Riley Baker said. “I think we’re super excited about where we can go because that’s just a step, and now we want to take more steps and keep getting better.”

The season has been a push in the right direction for the program — tying its record for wins (6) and setting numerous individual records, most notably by junior goalkeeper Alaina Werremeyer and senior forward Kyler Goins.

Though the team says goodbye to many of its seniors, young talent and the growth of the team going into the next season are bright spots for the future. Freshman defender Jazmin Brown was named to the Big 12’s all-freshman team, sophomore defender Kenzi Gillispie played a heavy role in the backline and Baker grew offensively.

There is plenty of turnover going into next season, with more players arriving in the offseason to fill potential holes.

“I think it’s gonna be really exciting,” Gillispie said. “Next year, we have our whole backline returning. We have Alaina at goal. We have a lot of young players that can fill those roles that the seniors left.”

Baker and Gillispie stand as two leaders going into next season. Baker, worked into the offensive rotation, will play an expanded role going forward. She contributed as an offensive player but found her time restricted because of the extensive group of veterans on offense. On the back end, Gillispie fit in as a solid role on the defensive side, playing the most minutes out of all starting fielders on the team. Both players are proven starters on the roster and will likely fill leadership roles heading into next season.

“I feel we definitely ended in a good spot,” Gillispie said. “I mean, that was our first time making the tournament.”

It’s important for good team chemistry to develop entering into a new season. Consistency and a smooth transition with changes to the roster was a point of emphasis for the team.

“We’re good communicators, and we’ve already played together. We’re not trying to figure each other out,” Gillispie said. “So I think that is going to have a huge part in our success on the field.”

Not only is a seamless development with roster turnover helpful to the team’s success, but building relationships with the young core helps create a bountiful team environment. Leaders from the team this season helped elevate their teammates’ performance and focus, an impact that will be seen down the line.

Senior midfielder Bailey Nemechek guided some of the younger players.

“She [Nemechek] was one of our seniors this year and she just kind of took me under her wing and really helped me grow not only as a person but as a player too,” Baker said. “She has helped me in all aspects of life and she’s become one of my closest friends. I’m really gonna miss her.”

Nemechek and the rest of the seniors leaving the team helped teach the future leaders to follow in their footsteps.

“I think the legacy she [Nemechek] and all our other seniors left behind is going to keep helping us do bigger and better things every single year,” Baker said. “We’ll be able to step into more leadership roles and help the team continue to get better as new players get in.”

As younger players get acquainted with the system, leaders on the team can help them become accustomed and comfortable with the adjustment of college soccer.

“The speed of play is a lot more intense. Everything’s just amped up,” Gillispie said. “So it’s a lot different than club soccer. It was just a lot faster, a lot more physical, a lot more demanding.”

Entering into next season, K-State soccer hopes to not only return to the Big 12 tournament, but win it. With additional players being added to the roster, it’s a time of maturation and excitement for the program.