On a rainy Friday evening in Columbus, Ohio, the Ohio State University women took on the undefeated Florida Gulf Coast soccer team at Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium. Both Kayla Fischer and Emaly Vatne started this game. This is notable because not only are the pair freshmen, but they have also both been named Big 10 Freshman Player of the Week early on in the season.
Vatne was in the attacking midfield and Fischer was playing right forward. Both girls played aggressively from the start against a tough opponent. After the game, Vatne, Fischer, and Coach Lori Walker-Hock spoke with SI Kids about the transition from high school star to learning the ropes of the college game.
Vatne had a big smile on her face despite the 1-0 loss. Even though she played the entire 90-minute game, she still seemed to have tons of energy. Vatne joined the team from her hometown of Sterling Heights, Michigan, where she played club soccer for the Michigan Hawks. She said her best accomplishment so far was getting to the level she is at right now, and being able to play with teammates that can make her even better.
For Vatne, the hardest part of going from high school soccer to college soccer has been on the physical side. "We all play really fast in training and are trying to play faster every day," she says." "Taking care of my body is something that I’ve had to pick up on since I got here.” Typical days for her are usually watching film for an hour with her teammates in the morning. After that, the team trains for two hours. They spend the rest of their afternoons in classes and studying.
Vatne received her Freshman of the Week honor after netting a hat trick in an 8-0 win against Morehead State. She scored seven points in the game, which is third-most in a single game in school history. "It was really exciting," she says. "Our whole freshman class has been killing it. Kayla Fischer got it the week before so that’s something to be proud of. Blair Cowan (also a freshman) had two assists. We have all been killing it.”
At first, Fischer seemed a little frustrated in the moments after the game ended. This was probably because she took nine shots during the game without scoring. But as the interview started she quickly had a smile on her face as she talked about her freshman season experience so far.
Fischer earned her Freshman Player of the Week award after scoring the game-winner in an upset victory over No. 5 Florida. "It was a big accomplishment," she says. She said that scoring her first goal for OSU was ”unreal” and that she felt as if she didn’t know what was happening in the moment when she was celebrating. When asked about the hardest part of transitioning to Division I soccer, Fischer pointed to the speed of the game. "Playing here is a lot faster, and it took a couple games to get into that," she says. "I just have to keep that in the back of my head. Now that everyone is as fast as or faster than me, I can’t use my speed as much when I play."
Lori Walker-Hock, the team's coach, offered praise for her team, a mix of freshman and experienced seniors. "I really like this team and I like what they are doing, we just have to be consistent," she said.
As for Vatne and Fischer, Walker-Hock had more good things to say. "Kayla works her tail off," she says. "Whether it’s a training session or a game environment, she just always is working hard. She works hard but she’s also interested in learning. Emaly is a soccer junkie. She does things with the ball that usually are done by older players. So, to think about where she is now and where she’ll be in the next four years is super exciting. The two of them are good friends and they just always have a smile on their faces, so it’s just fun to watch their interaction.”
Kayla Fischer and Emaly Vatne are proving to be some of the best freshman on the pitch. They’ve both won the Freshman Player of the Week early in their career That is something that even their coach thinks is “super exciting”. And it’s likely these two players will continue to shine at Ohio State and beyond.
Top photo courtesy of Ohio State Athletics; Courtesy of Emily Whitcomb (2)