Girls soccer | regional preview

Pullins keys Valparaiso's girls soccer team with her quick feet and decisions

2011-10-11T19:00:00Z 2011-10-12T04:30:05Z Pullins keys Valparaiso's girls soccer team with her quick feet and decisionsBy Jim Hunsley jim.hunsley@nwi.com, (219) 548-4356 nwitimes.com

Kaylee Pullins is in constant motion — physically and mentally — on the soccer pitch.

The Valparaiso midfielder has helped the Vikings advance to the Class 2A Highland Regional as Valpo plays Duneland Athletic Conference foe Lake Central in today's semifinals.

She has 14 goals and six assists in 15 reported games for the Vikings (14-3). Not only is the 5-foot-3 junior fast, but she also has speedy reflexes.

"She is very quick, but it's also about what happens when she gets the ball," Valparaiso coach Robert Cespedes said of Pullins. "Once she has possession, she is automatically doing something. She might pass it right back, (shoot) or make a phenomenal cross to the center.

"We noticed her as a freshman and knew she was a very talented player from the get-go. We've seen her progress and even be more efficient."

Some of that efficiency stems from Pullins' mental approach, which includes goal-setting.

"I always have my own little goals — that I keep to myself," said Pullins, who scored twice in Saturday's 4-1 Portage Sectional championship win over Chesterton. "I just try to see how far I can push myself. I keep trying to improve myself by keeping these goals in the back of my mind."

She also is very cognizant of the mistakes she makes on the field — and doesn't see this as a negative.

"I've figured what to do on and off the ball by making mistakes," she said.

"Honestly, I'm very hard on myself, but my coaches have always encouraged me that I can always fit and turn (the mistake) into a positive. ... I'm always trying to make the best out of the next play."

Then there's Pullins' familiarity with almost every position on the field. She has played the game since she was 4 years old. She has spent time at outside back, center defender, center defensive midfielder, center attacking midfielder, outside midfielder (both sides) and forward.

"One time, a coach asked if I would play goalie," Pullins said. "It was never pressed, but I was willing to go there. I feel it's important to be a well-rounded soccer player. Seeing different places really helps you understand each position."

In the end, it's Pullins' enjoyment for the game that doesn't make the physical or mental process seem like work.

"Whether it's high school or club (ball), it's about doing what you love," she said. "It keeps from thinking about other things. It's a stress reliever.

"I'm thankful for being a part of some great games. I just want to keep challenging myself to be a better person both on and off the field."

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