Kaylee Kern using versatility to aid Laramie girls soccer

May 1—Laramie High senior Kaylee Kern's versatility on the soccer field has allowed coach Kim Whisenant to checkmate opponents throughout the season, despite fluctuating health on the Plainsmen roster.

While Kern has spent most of her time playing center back, various injuries have seen her moved up and down the field at multiple positions. Whisenant said Kern is skilled enough to make an impact at each one.

"Her role is ever-evolving, because I have to keep moving her," Whisenant said. "She does a great job of tactically putting herself in positions to help the team."

Added Kern: "When I'm playing my center defensive mid position, I am trying to be a lockdown defender and advance the ball to our forwards. Or, I can be an outlet to recycle the ball backward.

"I'm feeling confident, and like I'm actually getting better."

Kern understands she has grown into a leadership role, and doesn't overlook being voted as a team captain by her teammates prior to the season. She strives to become a more complete player every time she steps onto a field.

"Every year, I try to be a positive person," Kern said. "I want to be that outlet people can come to. Being voted captain was such a big accomplishment for me, and I'm doing everything I can to be that (outlet)."

Added Whisenant: "(Kern) has been vocal for us. She also guides the younger players, which has demonstrated a lot of leadership."

Before the season started, Kern looked at the team's roster and knew there would be bumps in the road. Throughout that process, Kern's confidence never wavered.

"I can see passes that will open up, and lanes people need to get to in order to defend," Kern said. "When things happen in a game, I'll ask myself, 'What can I do?' Then, I will go to my teammates and go over other backside options that are available. You can see it starting to click sometimes."

In addition to her voice, Kern feels her biggest strengths are her overall knowledge of the game and defending. She can read opposing attacks from her spot on the field, and see the play develop in real time.

Kern also credits Whisenant's soccer IQ for helping her have the season she's had. She feels like Laramie has an advantage over any opponent because of the coach's knowledge on the sideline.

"(Whisenant) believes in all of us," Kern said. "She's going to support us no matter what. She's helped increase all of our skills and gained experience from all over the U.S., and that is obvious in the two months she's been here."

For Kern, her final season with the Plainsmen is symbolic. She has battled multiple knee injuries over the past four years, but she's fought back every time.

As a freshman, Kern tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee. After returning as a sophomore, she dislocated her right kneecap twice in the past eight months. Each dislocation has required two months off from soccer to go through the physical therapy process.

"It can be difficult, especially when you can't go out and train," Kern said. "At the same time, it's pushed me to be a better athlete."

Staying healthy is a top motivator for Kern before leaving to play college soccer. Kern has already committed to play for Bluefield State University in West Virginia.

The Big Blue finished 5-12-1 overall in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association last fall.

Her recruiting process spanned from her freshman season to last November, when she finally put pen to paper. Over that span, Kern established a constant dialogue with Bluefield State coach Scott Forster.

"I got the (National Center for Statistics and Analysis) recruiting app for better insight," Kern said. "I messaged (Forster) and asked if they had any open spots, because I was looking for a place to play."

Forster responded with interest, and Kern went on an unofficial visit soon after. On that visit, Kern saw enough to decide that was where she would attend college.

Throughout this season, Forster has kept in touch with Kern to monitor her knee. He has touched base with her, but hasn't been over the top, Kern said.

"I was able to meet the girls and the coaches," she added. "It was a perfect fit, and I can't wait to get out there. The campus was small, safe and I'd get one-on-one time with my professors so I could excel there."

Added Whisenant: "She will bring intensity and competitiveness (to Bluefield State). She is a very nice young woman, but wants to be successful on and off the soccer field. She will push her teammates to do the same.

"... (Kern) grows and gets better every time she trains and in games. She's had a very consistent season."

Laramie (9-3 overall, 9-1 Class 4A East Conference) hosts Cheyenne Central (2-8-2, 0-8-2) at 5:15 p.m. today inside the Indoor Practice Facility on the University of Wyoming's campus.

The 4A East regional tournament runs May 9-11 in Cheyenne. Kern wants to see the team's mindset at the start of games improve before that time comes.

"From the first whistle, we need to be pedal to the metal," Kern said. "There isn't a question if we can beat these teams. (Everyone) has to carry over the effort from the game prior."

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Austin Edmonds covers Laramie High, University of Wyoming and community athletics for WyoSports. He can be reached at Follow him on X at @_austinedmonds.