WILLIAMSBURG — Sydney King is taking on her last season with the Lafayette High School (LHS) girls soccer team in full stride.
During her junior year, Sydney overcame her personal obstacles and helped spark inspiration within her teammates. It was a season where the school’s soccer team eventually bounced back from an 0-win-5-loss drought at the start of the season but ended up making it to the state semi-finals.
This year, Sydney has plans to recreate that success while also preparing to play collegiate soccer at Lenoir-Rhyne University in Hickory, N.C. after she graduates.
“I’ve always wanted to do like a college sport of some kind,” said Sydney in an interview with WYDaily. “I just always loved watching college athletes and I think I’ve known a lot of college soccer players and they’ve always loved it. So I thought it would be a really good way to meet new people in college and just have a good experience.”
The senior Rams athlete started to kick the soccer ball when she was around four years old in a recreational league. Following that, Sydney joined a travel team when she was seven. Now, she helps to lead the Rams’ attacking efforts with fellow teammate Brooke Potter.
The two forwards started playing together last season and have proven that, together, they can reach the back of the net.
“I think we play really well together,” said Sydney. “We understand each other’s style of play and can set each other up for success. So I think we work really well together and it’s a lot of fun playing with her.”
Sydney was inspired to play soccer by watching her older sister play growing up. That set her on the path to where she’s now heading off to college to play at the next level. Lenoir-Rhyne University seemed like the perfect route forward as she made plans to continue on with her soccer career.
“I had met some of the coaches a couple of times and it felt like a great program,” said Sydney. “All the girls on the team are super nice. I just thought the school, all around, academically and athletically, was the best fit for me.”
Sydney reached this point by navigating a couple of setbacks to her soccer career goals. However, no matter how tough the road was, she never gave up.
“It was really hard because I had a lot of ID [identification] games at different colleges set up the summer that COVID[-19] happened. So it was a major set back and I was really worried that I wasn’t going to be able to play,” said Sydney.
On top of navigating the college recruitment process during a pandemic, she also suffered a concussion while playing for her club soccer team. This took her out of the game that she loved for seven months. However, when Sydney was officially cleared to come back to the world of soccer, she helped rally the LHS squad.
“Sydney is just an all-around dynamic player,” said LHS head coach Kellie Ernst in an interview with WYDaily. “When we started the season we were missing a few key players, and Sydney was one of them. We dropped our first five games. Straight losses and we were like ‘oh no!’ Like, ‘what are we going to do here?’ But as we started gaining those players back it was just like a spark was lit. Sydney kind of led the way with that and it was very telling. She is absolutely one of the success stories to all that we achieved last year.”
The Rams striker is considering a nursing major while attending her Lenoir-Rhyne University. As she plans for graduation, Sydney believes that the team is in great hands with their upcoming freshman class. Some of them are already starters for the team.
“I remember her freshman year when she had just moved here and we were doing a preseason playing,” said Coach Ernst. “I had no idea who she was. She was a complete surprise even as a freshman. Younger, a little bit smaller, and maybe less physically able to keep up with the girls is usually what you expect from the freshmen, but she got right in there and you couldn’t tell the difference between our upperclassmen vs her style and level of play. She’s been a key to our success throughout her entire high school career, and we’re excited to see where she takes it this year. “
Only time will tell if the Rams can recreate the magic of last season. Meanwhile, Sydney has offered a few words of advice to help inspire other student athletes who may be thinking about playing in college:
“Don’t stop in the recruiting process,” said Sydney. “It’s long and it’s hard, but if you want to do it, you can make it work. No matter where you end up, whether it’s D1, D2, or D3. It’s still an accomplishment if you’re playing because it’s so hard to do it. So I think no matter where you end up and where you get offers, it’s amazing and you should keep going.”