Kerns making name for herself at Marshall
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The best evidence that the quality of high school and youth soccer in West Virginia is improving is right down the road in Huntington.
Former Nitro High star Lindsay Kerns is making a name for herself as a goalkeeper for Marshall's soccer team.
"She's doing great," said third-year Herd Coach Kevin Long. "It's very competitive at the goalkeeper position for us this year and Lindsay really helped stabilize us there early."
In the latest Conference USA statistics Kerns is ranked fourth among keepers in goals allowed, giving up just 0.84 per game. She is third in save percentage, allowing only five goals against 26 saves, .839, and is also fourth in saves per game with a 4.33 average.
A sophomore academically, Kerns is eligible for a redshirt season from last year if she wants it.
Right now she is still adjusting to college soccer.
"It's definitely a high level of play," said Kerns. "It's been an exciting time for me."
Not quite as exciting as her senior year in high school though when she led the Wildcats to their first girls state soccer championship.
That season ended with Kerns recording four straight shutouts including two in the State Tournament. In the championship game she held second-ranked University scoreless through regulation and overtime.
She topped off her performance by scoring once and stopping two University shots in the shootout.
"That's definitely one of my best soccer moments," recalled Kerns. "And it really motivates me to win a conference championship here."
Something Long is working hard toward making a reality.
"Last year was only the second winning season the school has ever had," he said. "Now we want to make our conference tournament."
Marshall (3-4-2) finished 2009 at 12-7-0 with a 5-6-0 conference mark after posting a 5-10-4 record in Long's first season.
"We think we're close to being one of the top teams in our conference," Long said. "We need to get some wins against top-ranked teams."
Last weekend the Herd led 23rd ranked University of Central Florida 1-0 at halftime only to fall 2-1 on the road. There was also a 1-0 loss at Kentucky earlier in the season.
Kerns had eight saves against Kentucky but was not in goal for the UCF game.
There are two other West Virginia players on the Marshall roster.
Former Hurricane star Abby Barber is a freshman defender and Chelsey Maiden from Parkersburg is a sophomore forward. Both have seen limited action in a couple of games.
Still, that is an improvement over the in-state representation in past years at the school.
Long says he looks forward to recruiting Mountain State players.
"Absolutely, we love the idea of bringing in West Virginia kids. It improves our roster," he said. "That is a testament to the improvement soccer in the state has shown."
This season his focus remains on the ones already on the roster, especially Kerns.
"I only got to see her play one time in high school and she had a sore back and didn't play in goal," said Long. "I saw her more when she came to camp here."
What he and his assistants saw was "someone, who given the right attention could contend for the starting spot".
"She's got the build for goalkeeper," said Long. "She's got great range in making her saves."
Kerns stands 5 feet, 9 inches tall and has long arms.
She has also proven to be a good student, both on and off the field.
"It's definitely demanding," said Kerns of college life. "It takes a lot of time management."
Long says his budding star is being modest.
Kerns is currently sporting a 3.61 grade point average and is doing just as well on the field.
"She's had to jack up her pace of play and she's done a terrific job," Long said. "She's understanding angle on the goal much better than many keepers with more years of experience."
She also had one other surprise for the Herd coaches.
"We had a day in the pool during conditioning," said Long. "And she blew by everyone, including one of the (male) assistant coaches."
They did not realize Kerns has a state swim championship to go along with her one in soccer.
But then again, Marshall coaches and fans are learning not to be surprised by anything this young athlete accomplishes.