Kelly Robertson’s high school soccer career nearly ended before it ever began.
Robertson, a 2021 W.F. West graduate, began playing soccer when she was just 5 years old. But by eighth grade, she gave up the sport she had been playing for nine years and began focusing solely on volleyball.
“I was really committed,” Robertson said.
She played volleyball for the next two years, through her freshman year at W.F. West. But then, in a sudden stroke of fate, she decided to switch back to her longtime sport of soccer.
“I did not get the playing time I wanted to in volleyball,” Robertson said. “I liked the coaches, they were nice, I just didn’t want to play volleyball anymore. Running is more fun anyways.”
Robertson’s strength has always been running. A four-year letterwinner in track and field, Robertson helped the Bearcats in capturing the unsanctioned 2021 sub-district tournament by running legs in the winning 4x100 and 4x200 relays.
All that running and her decision to switch back to soccer eventually paid off as Robertson became a starter her first year back in the sport for the Bearcats’ varsity team.
She would go on to start all three years, earning second-team, all-2A Evergreen Conference honors as a junior and a first-team selection as a senior. She was also one of 14 girls named to The Chronicle’s 2021 All-Area Girls Soccer Team.
While all this was going on, Robertson was garnering attention from college programs for her tenacious defensive skills.
She joined a local club team, Twin Cities Union (TCU), when she was a sophomore. TCU’s head coach at the time was Clarence Gundersen, who is now the head coach for Centralia College’s women’s soccer team.
“Him and I are like really close friends,” Robertson said. “He kind of just convinced me to get on the team.”
Gundersen was then able to recently convince Robertson to sign with the Trailblazers. It was a big ask of Robertson, who began getting interest from college programs as early as her sophomore year.
By her senior year, she had schools all over the U.S. reaching out to her, including from Iowa, Illinois, Nevada and Oregon, among others.
But it was Gundersen and Centralia College that finally won her commitment when she officially signed and committed in May 2021.
“None of them were what I was looking for so I just stayed here,” Robertson said.
Looking back, she’s glad she decided to switch back to soccer and leave volleyball behind. It allowed her to gain a college scholarship and continue her athletic career playing a sport she loves.
“It’s, like, a bond with everybody out on the field,” Robertson said. “It’s so fun when someone scores a goal. You just feel all the energy at once. It’s just super fun to have a lot of people around you all the time. Not to mention, practices can be really fun.”
Now she’ll get a chance to showcase her defensive skills to the next level.
“I like that people can trust me when I’m in the back,” Robertson said. “I’m just so fast that if the football gets by somebody, they have reassurance that I can go get it and make sure there isn’t a goal scored. I just like it.”
Robertson has always been a staunch defender, going back to her days when her dad was her youth basketball coach for years. Their teams prided themselves on playing tough defense, and that mindset translated easily over to soccer.
“They’re actually pretty much alike,” Robertson said. “Just one you have in your hands, the other one you kick.”
Robertson will now join her old club coaches Gundersen and Noel Vazquez and a Centralia College team that is coming off a shortened 2021 season due to the pandemic. The Trailblazers went 3-5-1 overall and in league, finishing in a three-way tie for second place in the West Region with 10 points.
“Super excited for the coaches,” Robertson said. “I love the coaches. They’re super nice and we have a connection already. I’m also excited to meet all the girls because they seem nice. It’s good to get out of my comfort zone and meet new people.”