It has been a winding road for Kayla Wentworth since she graduated from Taunton High. After helping the Tigers make not only their first-ever playoff appearance but also earn their first-ever state tournament victory, the talented goalkeeper had the opportunity to play Div. I college soccer.
Playing for a Div. I program is the dream of just about every high school player that laces up their boots each fall, but the reality of playing at that level and the singular focus that many, if not most, Div. I programs require of their student-athletes isn’t for everyone.
Sometimes, you just need to find the place where you feel comfortable and happy.
After a year at Iona College (New Rochelle, N.Y.), where she admitted struggling with the coach, Wentworth gave Div. I a second chance with a transfer closer to home to play at UMass Lowell. She stayed for one semester in Lowell before making a second switch, heading to Beverly in the spring of 2018 to attend Endicott College.
It is a move that has worked out on and off the pitch.
“It’s good to find a home,” said Wentworth in a phone call ahead of Endicott’s Commonwealth Coast Conference (CCC) tournament opener against Western New England. “Here I have a great group of friends, soccer is just the right amount, our coaches are really good, really supportive, academics are great, everything is here is more like home than my other schools.”
Wentworth has certainly made the most of her time with the Gulls, earning a second team all-conference nod after leading the league with a 0.72 goals against average. She recorded six clean sheets in her first season with the Gulls and led Endicott to the top seed in the CCC tournament.
“I think it’s really important to just be yourself in order to play better,” she explained. “If you’re not comfortable where you are, then you’re not going to play well.”
When asked about the demands of playing at the Div. I level, Wentworth, who is a psychology major and wants to attend med school, noted that everything took a backseat to soccer. As much as she loves the game, she also had to be realistic about where her career was headed and the important of academics.
“I love soccer, so that wasn’t really part of it, but when you play Div. I you find that’s your life,” she said. “Realistically, after college I’m not going to go play professionally, so there was no reason for that to be the only thing in my life.”
Unlike when she transferred to UMass Lowell, Wentworth joined Endicott in the spring. It afforded her the time to get acclimated with the campus, her classes, and with her new teammate. She took advantage of the extra time to become comfortable with her situation.
She also benefited from being the lone goalie in the spring, with the Gulls adding two freshman to the roster this fall. For the first time since leaving Taunton, Wentworth had control of the No. 1 jersey and was between the posts for every game. All soccer players, but particularly goalkeepers, rely on confidence to perform at their best and Wentworth felt the confidence growing with each appearance.
“The other two goalies with me are freshmen, so I knew that I had a shot at the job, but I still had to work for it,” she said. “The goalie position is more mental and knowing that they have the confidence to put me on the field every game definitely boosted my confidence. It makes me play better.”
At the time of the interview, Wentworth was preparing for the tournament opener and she was counting on her high school experiences to help her handle playoff pressure. Wentworth was the goalie for the only Taunton girls’ team to make the postseason and she helped the Tigers go on the road to beat Wellesley for the program’s first playoff win.
It is an experience that still resonates for the players that were part of it.
“We’re all still really good friends and looking back on it I even cry sometimes,” she said. “I don’t think Taunton will ever see another team that was that much of a family and that determined to get to the playoffs and get the job done. We made history and that’s something I’m never going to forget.”
Unfortunately, Endicott didn’t experience the same success in the tournament. The Gulls were beaten on penalties after 110 scoreless minutes, despite putting eight shots on goal and holding WNE to just one. It was the fourth straight year that the Gulls had the season end at the semifinal stage.
It wasn’t the ending that Endicott was looking for, but Wentworth knows that the team is in a good place and, more importantly that she is too. After two years of searching for the right place to play, the best fit for her, Wentworth has found a home in Beverly and she is brimming with confidence after a successful fall.
“Coming in I did have a lot of goals for myself because I had played at two other schools,” she reflected, “and I obviously didn’t have the chance to earn those honors there. Looking back, I’m kind of surprised with myself because I actually did it and my confidence shot up.”
She added, “Coming into a team that was already successful was very nerve-wracking, but I’ve definitely succeeded here and I think it’s gratifying to see that and know that those changes were the right decision. It’s nice to be able to step back and reflect and see that it all worked out.”