There have been many contributing factors to the Montclair State University women’s soccer team’s success so far this season. But one freshman, in particular, has really found her way to victory, bringing the whole team with her.
Through 12 games, freshman sensation Kylie Prendergast, who was just named New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) rookie of the week, has seven goals and four assists which ranks second on the team in both categories, only trailing junior midfielder Aileen Cahill who has nine goals and five assists.
The young speedy winger has been off to a racing start and is one of the key factors in the Red Hawks’ success this season.
Prendergast is exactly the type of player head coach Patrick Naughter wants in his attack and watching her play for the first time while recruiting her showed him all that he needed to know from a skill-based standpoint.
“My assistant coach was real big on her,” Naughter said. “I went to go see her play and I loved how she got the ball and got after people. She would just get it and run right at you and that’s something we’re always looking to do, put pressure on the other team. I was like ‘Man Ky’s got that,’ she is fearless.”
Although Naughter was aware of the skills and talent Prendergast possessed, he didn’t expect her contributing this much this fast after watching her again during her high school season.
“Then I went to go see her play high school games and thought she disappeared a little bit,” Naughter said. “Not [going to] lie, as her high school season was going along I was a little like ‘Man, it’s going to take this kid some time to find her way in college.’ Some of the physicality and directness of high school soccer, I just thought it was difficult for her to make an impact and I’m glad I was wrong.”
The “aha” moment for coach Naughter was during the summer while he was working the Roxbury High School camp in Morris County and a couple of his players were there training in the park.
Junior forward Lauren Ernst mentioned playing pickup with some of the freshmen to Naughter and according to him, she raved about Prendergast.
For Prendergast, the team’s chemistry has been the biggest factor in her individual success.
“I think it’s the team chemistry,” Prendergast said. “There’s always a team bond on every soccer team I’ve been on but this one seems different.”
Getting comfortable with a new team is a challenge and it didn’t come right away.
“It kind of started off slow, it always takes me a little bit to get comfortable on a new team,” Prendergast said. “Especially like a new school, I always considered clubs and what school I represent very different, so it’s just nice to wear the jersey with pride.”
Even with the amount of statistical success Prendergast has had, she has noticed a big difference in the physicality at the college level.
“The biggest change is probably physicality,” Prendergast said. “I’ve seen people just throw their bodies. There are [players] like that at every level but it’s every single minute [here].”
Despite all the early success, none of that motivates Prendergast as much as her parents and teammates do.
“My parents, they always were like my biggest coaches,” Prendergast said. “Especially my dad in like every training we do in the offseason or even in season, I always just play for them. Also, my teammates because all of us are bigger than just ourselves so it’s more motivating to work for them than myself.”
The Red Hawks found a special one and there will be many more bright moments in the young star’s future.