When it comes to turning around a struggling sports team, whether that’s NCAA or professional, it’s crucial to have a strong leader. For Pitt women’s soccer, junior defender Kate McKay has proven to be exactly that, helping captain the team to its first winning season since 2015.
Ahead of the 2020-21 campaign, McKay was named a team captain and that’s not a responsibility she takes lightly. “I think one of the greatest honors is being selected as a team captain by the teammates you play and compete with on a daily basis,” McKay told BGN. “To me it meant that I earned their respect and trust and I wanted to be the best leader possible.”
Describing her leadership style, she said, “I take pride in holding others accountable, and I know that doesn’t make me the most popular person on the team, but I know it’s what our team needs to have success. I hope they know how proud I am of them and the standard that I hold them to is high because I know how great they can be.”
Today, it was announced that Pitt women’s soccer will play two matches this spring: March 7th vs. Duquesne and March 21st vs. Marshall. Those fixtures will allow the Panthers to build on a 9-5 record in the fall, potentially breaking the school record for victories. “We’ve obviously made some great progress in the past season towards where we want to be as a team, but we still have some work to do if we want to be the best team in the ACC,” McKay explained. “I think we have the personnel and system that can allow us to take that next step, but a big part of that next step is to continue building a culture that can win championships. I have one year left to leave my mark on this program, and I’m very thankful for the role that my coaches and teammates have given me to help turn the program around.”
Kate is in the midst of a breakout individual season, too, including being named ACC Defender of the Week back on September 15th. She has played 90+ minutes in all but one match and scored three goals (including a game-winner vs. Miami and an equalizer vs. The Citadel) to go with four assists. . “My training mindset has a lot to do with being able to perform in games,” she said when discussing her quality production from the backline. “I’m quite competitive in practice, especially when it comes to defending and attacking the net.”
Team captain @ktkmck 3rd goal of the season is a clutch one!
Pitt 1 | Miami 0
— Pitt Women's Soccer (@Pitt_WSOC) October 18, 2020
“I worked a lot on my aerial game over last summer, which resulted in a couple header goals, but all of my goals had amazing buildup play, so thank you to my friends for making my part easy. I’ve been working on my distribution over the break, trying to be as technically solid as possible. Center back is a very high stress position, so I need to trust my feet when I can’t think as much.”
Off the pitch, Kate is enjoying life in the Steel City, too. Growing up in British Columbia, she said the winters in Pittsburgh are “nostalgic” after starring for Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, Arizona. “My favorite spots in the city are coffee shops and restaurants like La Gourmandine or Noodlehead, or the farmers markets that sponsor my Instagram stories of my cooking,” McKay shared.
She’s also representing the city of one of her favorite musical artists, the late Mac Miller. She recalled, “I remember listening to Mac Miller in 2010 because of my older brother, back when K.I.D.S came out. I found his music again in 2016 and it really helped me with my self-awareness and perspective on life.”
“He’s positive in a way that I can really relate to: you can acknowledge the bad and feel it, but don’t let it hold you. “Objects in the Mirror” is a song I can never skip, plus “Jet Fuel” gets me in a mood before games. You see murals of him all over the city, every few cars playing one of his songs, he lives here forever. Rest in Peace.”
McKay and her teammates will look to continue establishing their legacies in the city when they host local rival Duquesne next month.