LYNDHURST, N.J.– Only three girls soccer players from Lyndhurst High School have committed to play the sport at the Division I level: Kim Hykey (Seton Hall), Sam Lockhart (St. Peter's) and Kelsie Kearns (Iona College).
"I didn't even know that. That's crazy," said Kearns, 17.
"I didn't know if I could play Division I. I know I wanted to."
The Golden Bears 5-foot-3 junior sweeper and team captain drew interest from several Division II schools and considered St. John's University.
But Gaels Head Coach Sarah Brady was the difference maker.
Brady puts her players in a position to succeed and is attack-minded in her game plan, said Kearns, who plans to major in accounting.
Making a verbal commitment as a junior “takes a lot of pressure off," as most of her college-bound senior friends "don’t know where they want to go," Kearns added.
Kearns has been playing soccer since pre-K – she's also a defender for club team World Class FC – and she started running track once she got to high school.
Kearns competes in the mile, two-mile, long jump, triple jump, the 400-meter, and 800-meter events.
But she prefers the team aspect of soccer over the individual competition of track.
"I don’t play for myself, I play for everyone else," Kearns said.
Hykey, who coaches Kearns in both sports, said she isn't surprised at what the latter has accomplished.
"Kelsie is one of the fiercest competitors I've coached," said Hykey. "She makes everyone around her better. She has another level that she is able to kick into when she needs to.
"She's savvy on the field and plays so much bigger than her size. Kelsie is the type of player you build your team around."
Kearns is also a standout in the classroom: she has a 4.209 grade point average and earned the Hugh O'Brian Youth Leadership Award.
But before she heads off to Iona, she has some unfinished business on the pitch: winning a state sectional soccer title that's eluded Lyndhurst.
“I want that more than anything," Kearns said.
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