Kayla Fischer: A Catch For Racing
Kayla Fischer rushed home on draft day from her 12-hour clinical for her grad school program in nursing, gathered around with family and surprise friends from the Ohio State women’s soccer team, and got a call. A call from Racing Louisville was met with cheers of celebration from those around her as she was told she would be their next pick.
Now settling in at Racing, Fischer recalled her soccer career from growing up to attending Ohio State to now being a professional in the National Women’s Soccer League.
A Kent, Ohio native, Kayla Fischer grew up cheering on the Ohio State Buckeyes. However, unlike most kids who grew up in the world of sports, she never dreamed of going pro or even playing at the collegiate level.
“I didn't have this aspiration growing up. I know like every little kid playing soccer you wanna keep continuing to play but, I think for me, that next level was never something I dreamed of until it got to that point. I more enjoyed the moment that I was in.”, Fischer explained when talking about her journey.
Fischer who started playing soccer at three was well-versed in all sports as a young kid. She played soccer, and basketball, and even took stabs at baseball and football. She didn't think of sports in the sense of what she could do next, but more of being in the moment and enjoying every second of it. That sentiment has continued throughout her entire soccer career.
When high school came around Fischer continued to play basketball alongside soccer but realized soccer was her sport. It was what she was really passionate about. While she did focus in more on soccer, Fischer said “I think that [playing basketball and soccer] helped me a lot because I didn't have all of my focus on soccer and there wasn't that pressure like I need to do well. It was more of just staying active.”
After joining a better club team during her freshman year of high school, Fischer said she realized that was the moment it clicked that she could play in college. She began reaching out to collegiate programs, going on visits, and ultimately started her road to the pro journey without knowing it.
Once A Buckeye
The culture of being a Buckeye runs deep. The Scarlet and Grey on game days, Brutus running around, the cheers of an O-H followed with an I-O, and Carmen Ohio being sung at the end of games. All of those things make Ohio State a home which is exactly what Fischer felt when she stepped onto campus.
“My first step on campus, I was like, okay, yeah, like I feel myself here, like going to school, not only playing soccer.”
Fischer initially committed to the University of Indiana during her sophomore year but after a visit to the campus, she ultimately decided it wasn’t the place for her. It threw a wrench in her plans since it was hedging on the end of senior year for her. Fischer decided to take a visit to Ohio State, a no-brainer from a long-time Ohio State follower, and from the minute she stepped onto the campus, she knew it was home for her. The added bonus of her family and friends being two hours away definitely helped solidify her decision. Fischer added that her parents made it to every home game, and even away ones.
When Fischer made her way to Ohio State the roster was full, but luckily, the Buckeyes took a chance on her. Coming into a full team meant dedication needed to be at the forefront for Fischer as she worked on the team. She mentioned, “I just had to work my way into playing, getting more, playing time, and everything. But I'm so glad that I did.”
During the middle of her time at Ohio State, COVID threw a twist into the world. While many people got lost in what to do, Fischer said the time to have a break from soccer was needed while also acting like a wake-up call for the Buckeyes. For Fischer personally, it was a moment to remember why she played soccer. To find joy and make the most of every opportunity she had to step onto a field a play. Since playing was not guaranteed at the time with games being postponed, canceled, or even just becoming intrasquad tournaments, she just took every second to play.
In the spring of 2021, the Big Ten held a conference play for soccer. Fischer said that it was a different type of collegiate soccer for her. The team started indoors but as winter weather moved out and spring sunshine rolled in, the team moved outside. When the end of the season came and it was time for the NCAA tournament, Fischer said, “That was the cool year, they did the whole tournament in North Carolina. We ended up making the second round.”
The quick turnaround of playing in both the fall and spring, with training throughout the summer was a lot but Fischer appreciated the no time off because it showed another world of soccer. She had never thought about the balance of professional soccer, but the 2020-2021 season helped encourage the decision to fifth year and ultimately, enter the draft.
Fifth Times The Charm
Fischer worked her way to being a starter, a co-captain, and an all-around star player. During her collegiate career, she scored twenty-eight goals, had twenty assists, and helped carry the Buckeyes to the second round of the NCAA women’s soccer tournament in her final season.
Going into the fifth and final year at Ohio State, Fischer planned for that to be the end of her soccer career. But, as the season progressed her journey shifted.
“It wasn't my last year of college actually where I thought, hey, maybe I wanna play professionally. I was like, oh, this actually is ending soon. Like am I gonna continue to play? And I think that was an easy given that yes, that is something that I want to continue to do.” Fischer said on her decision to enter the draft.
On the day of the draft Kayla and her family, along with some friends, settled in her apartment in Columbus. Since she had grad school classes, Fischer wasn’t able to make the trip to Philadelphia. Getting drafted to Racing was a full-circle moment for the former Buckeye. One of the coaches on staff at Louisville was a former coach at Indiana, where Fischer was originally committed. She recalled having his phone number saved in her phone.
“He called me and I knew that Louisville's Pick was next. And I was like, okay, guys, shut up. I think I'm getting picked.” Fischer said.
After answering the phone Fischer went back to her family and friends, getting a few moments to celebrate before her name was officially called on the screen. Kayla Fischer, the 16th overall draft pick, a midfielder out of Kent, Ohio, and The Ohio State University was heading to Louisville to represent the purple and mint.
After draft day, Fischer spent some time talking with her former Buckeye teammate and current Kansas City Current player Izzy Rodriguez. Fischer recalled feeling bad for Izzy because she was asking her a million questions since she didn’t know what to expect. Rodriguez helped to ease some of the stress of going pro and the unknown. She also spent some time talking with Devon Kerr of the Houston Dash, another former Buckeye who she spent a year on the field with. Fischer mentioned that it’ll be fun to play against her former teammates, specifically Kansas City who the Racing side will play four times this season.
In The Now
Now Fischer is spending time getting settled in Louisville and loving every minute of it. Just last week she solidified her spot in mint and purple by inking a two-year contract through 2024.
“We were a little surprised but more than happy that we had the chance to take Kayla with the 16th pick in the draft,” said Racing head coach Kim Björkegren. “In our eyes, she was one of the most talented players in the draft, and she has already showed she is ready to take the next step. Her first touch is high quality, and she is always really dangerous in the final third. I’m really looking forward to continue working with her, and her future is really bright.”
Anytime the team gets to play against an opponent, it makes it much more intense. Fischer went into preseason ready to work and prove her spot on the team. Practices are high tempo, and they’re competitive but coming in as a team is always a good show of what the season is going to be like. Racing has truly impressed coming into the beginning of the season, winning most of their preseason matches and getting a variety of players minutes on the field.
One of the biggest on-the-field adjustments for Fischer has been reminding herself to play faster. Everything is at a high pace whereas in college there is more time to settle the ball with more touches, something that isn’t guaranteed in the league.
Off the field, she has settled in perfectly. Fischer said she had felt welcomed since the moment she arrived in Louisville and there's great team culture. Everyone lives in the same apartment complex meaning they have meals together, coffee runs, and hanging out. The environment is essentially college, minus schoolwork. Fischer added that it’s the first time she is doing soccer without school also being there which has been a new balance to figure out but she loves being able to give one hundred percent every day.
Fischer had an impressive preseason with the Racing side. She scored two goals against NWSL opponents over their eight-week preseason. Her goals came against the Chicago Red Stars in a 3-2 win and a goal against OL Reign, five minutes after subbing on at the half. She has shown that she can add depth to the midfield as well as scoring, which she did plenty of at Ohio State. She has been referred to a handful of times as Savannah DeMelo but taller.
“She’s really, really talented,” Björkegren said, “She has some work to do a little bit on defense, but with the ball, her first touch and how she moves – she’s almost like a snake. It was a great goal.”
As the season begins, Fischer is going to continue to impress. She is bound to be one of the best rookies this upcoming season. Racing hits the road to take on the Houston Dash this Sunday, March 26 at 7 pm.