A year ago, Sarah Killion was the second overall pick in the National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) college draft. Held in Philadelphia, Killion was picked just behind Morgan Brian, everybody's consensus No. 1 top pick.
The selection completed a circuitous journey for Killion, a Midwest native who went to college in Los Angeles and ended up in New Jersey with Sky Blue FC. She was a starter in the holding midfielder spot, appearing in 17 matches, missing three with injury. She totaled one assist on season.
One year later, we caught up with Killion, who is on loan to Adelaide United in Australia's W-League, to get her impressions about her first year as a professional with Sky Blue. This past weekend, she played a full 90 minutes against Sky Blue FC midfielder Nikki Stanton as Adelaide United dropped 2-1 match to Perth Glory.
(The NWSL 2016 College Draft will be held on Friday, January 15 in Baltimore)
Q1: It's been a year since you were drafted. What was the biggest challenge you faced with Sky Blue in 2015.
The biggest challenge I faced was an injury that kept me off the field for some time. I wanted to be out on the pitch with my teammates, but I couldn't physically. I had to support them from the sideline and be there for them. Overall, it was hard adjusting to a six-month season physically and mentally, especially being so used to the length of the college season.
Q2: Has your game changed since turning pro. How? What do you need to do better in 2016?
My game has changed dramatically. I have to be even sharper now when I step out on to the field for whatever is thrown my way. The level and speed of play is higher in this league than any other that I have played in. I need to be a rock in the midfield. I need to win my individual battles defensively and set the pace of the game offensively. I think working on my technical skills with both feet will help me with that. Overall, I need to have more of an impact on the field.
Q3: You played behind Katy Freels and in front of Christie Rampone -- two veterans of pro soccer. What was their influence on you?
Both of them helped me in different ways. Freels was so much fun to play with. Her creativity is inspiring, and she was always there to lift me up if I ever needed any encouragement. Rampone is an unreal athlete. It was so much fun playing in front of her and knowing that the back line was so secure because of her. She is so calm and composed during the game mentally because she has seen it all, and I would ask her questions constantly about our defensive shape and what she wanted from the midfield. She is someone who I will always look up to. I am so grateful to have both of them on my team.
Q4: Tell me about experiences in Australia. How did the league differ from NWSL? What were the biggest cultural differences, if any?
The league here in Australia is similar to the NWSL. Everyone knows each other, and players are competitive on the pitch. My experience has been amazing. Adelaide United has welcomed me with open arms, and it's fun to play with people who are so passionate about what they do.
Q5: You grew up in Midwest. You went to college on the West Coast. Tell me about your experiences in New Jersey. How did you like the Jersey Shore?
The Shore was great! My host family was so nice, and we were so close to the beach. I was used to being close to the beach in LA, so that wasn't much different. The cold weather at the beginning of the season reminded me a little of home in the Midwest as well. But I'm excited to get back and explore a little more. Last season I was doing a lot of adjusting, but this season I think I will venture out more with my teammates.
Q6: Tell me about life as a professional soccer player. What was your typical day like?
A typical day with Sky Blue FC starts off early. We would have film some days and a lifting session some days as well. But practice would usually start around ten and end around lunch time. The rest of the day was ours unless we had an appearance or a team event. Many of my teammates would go to the beach or just do their own thing. I remember cooking lots of meals with Shawna Gordon and Aubrey Bledsoe, which I always looked forward to.
Q7: You saw the World Cup surge after United States won last July. How did that affect you? In your opinion, can the surge last and can women's soccer become on par with the men's game as far as popularity?
The surge after the World Cup was uplifting for women's soccer and the NWSL. It affected me like it affected every other player. Crowds were huge at every game, and it truly felt like we were playing in a professional match. I think the surge can last, and hopefully, some day, we will be on par with the men's side as well.
Q8: You had success as an international player at U-20 and U23 levels. You had a call up with the senior team in 2014. What are your goals as far as the national team goes?
My goal right now is to improve every day individually so that I can help Sky Blue FC reach finals and a championship. If that helps me get called in to the national team that would be amazing, because it has always been a dream of mine to play for my country. But right now I am just taking it one day at a time. I am so blessed to be given the opportunity to play professionally at Sky Blue FC.
Q9: You have a youth league named after you in Indiana. Do you feel you're a role model? How does you handle that responsibility?
My league in Fort Wayne is for youth players to come out and enjoy the game. I hope that I can be a good role model for them, and that drives my actions and the way that I handle myself both on and off the field.
Q10: What is your message to a 10-year old girl who loves playing soccer?
I can't say anything more than just that - enjoy it! Soak it all in and always remember why you are playing the game, simply because you love it.