When Notre Dame sophomore Kiki Van Zanten gets her chance in front of goal, it is usually going to be a big day for the Fighting Irish star. With six goals in four matches already in 2020, Van Zanten is the type that can really play ball and help carry the Notre Dame attack for years to come.
Growing up in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, Kiki decided to stay near home and attend Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana to continue her soccer journey. “I think it was really important for me to stay near home for college because I don’t think I could survive with my mom any farther away,” Van Zanten told BGN. “I probably call her about twice and day, and really wanted my parents to be able to see my games. It is also a really easy trip home for a weekend if I am feeling homesick or want to see my dog.”
Kiki’s definitely proud to be from the Chicago area, which not only produces great athletes but also musical artists. “I would have to say that my favorite artist from Chicago is Chance the Rapper,” she said. “I know every single word to the majority of his songs. I think a lot of them have a really good message about our world today. It’s on my bucket list to go to one of his concerts and see him in person.”
Another staple of the Windy City is their unique style of pizza, which the young Notre Dame star definitely approves of. Van Zanten said, “I do love a good deep-dish pizza, my dad and I love trying out different kinds and our favorite is Lou Malnati’s or Gino’s East. I would have to say my favorite spot for normal pizza back home is Giordano’s.
While Notre Dame’s athletics and history get a lot of the attention, Van Zanten also thinks another aspect to the university is noteworthy. “I think the most underrated thing about Notre Dame is the difficulty of academics,” she said. “The academics are extremely competitive and difficult, as an athlete here you need to be able to give 100% in the classroom and on the field.”
As a freshman on the pitch for the Fighting Irish in 2019, Van Zanten has scored four goals, including the match-winner in Notre Dame’s NCAA tournament victory vs. Saint Louis. She explained, “It was incredible to be able to get on the end of that goal in the NCAA tournament. It may not have been a very pretty goal, but I was really excited to help contribute to send my team to the next round of the tournament. I would say that I have had quite a few special moments in my soccer career, and this was definitely one of them. I’m sure any soccer player will tell you that scoring in crucial games is a feeling like no other.” Kiki feels she does perform well in those high-pressure moments because it motivates her even more to give 110%.
✅ NCAA First Round
— ND Women's Soccer (@NDSoccer) November 17, 2019
She’s followed up her freshman season success with a big start to her sophomore campaign. In four matches, her six goals have her tied for the second-most in the country, with six fewer matches than the top scorer. Possibly even more impressive, it has only taken Kiki ten shots to convert six times. “I think the goals have definitely boosted my confidence on the field and are helpful for me to continue to take chances on the field,” Van Zanten said.
Led by Kiki’s goalscoring, Notre Dame is off to a 3-1 start with three straight victories. “I think that the team is extremely special this year because not only do we have a lot of players, we have everyone giving their best and competing against each other during practice,” Kiki said. “This allows everyone in practice to get so much better because everyone is giving their best.”
The Fighting Irish women’s team is back in action on Thursday when they face Wake Forest before matching up with Clemson on Sunday.
Before arriving in South Bend, Kiki also had the chance to represent the USWNT U-17 team. She said, “I did have a lot of chances playing for the youth national team in high school which was an incredible experience. I think if I ever got a chance to play for the first team I wouldn’t have words to describe how I would feel. I don’t think the 10-year-old me playing for my park district would even believe it.”
She lists Tobin Heath and Christen Press as two of her favorite USWNT players ever and added that she’s tried to incorporate aspects of their game into her own.
Lastly, yes, Van Zanten has heard all of the references Drake’s ‘Kiki, do you love me?’ lyric from 2019’s hit “In My Feelings”. She said, “When I first heard the song I thought it was pretty cool to have my name in such a popular song, but it very quickly became everyone I have ever known texting me Kiki, do you love me? Not including anyone I met at that time, I started saying different names while ordering at Starbucks so the barista wouldn’t sing it to me. So I would say about a week after that song came out before it started to get a touch annoying.”