Editor’s note: In the first of many college interviews to come, Hometown Sports editor Kenny Varner caught up with Pitt-Greensburg soccer player and former Juniata Indians player Hailey Kepner. Enjoy!
HS: How did you feel when you got the official word that you were selected?
HK: I received my offer to play at Pitt-Greensburg pretty early. In fact, it was my first offer. I felt very excited, but even more validated. There’s always that fear when you’re from a small town that you won’t get looked at by college coaches, especially one with such a great culture. So, receiving that offer was a really special and proud moment in my life.
HS: What was your experience like heading on campus for the first time at the school?
HK: Originally, I thought that I wanted to move much farther away from home, preferably somewhere south. However, when I stepped on campus and walked across the bridge leading to most of the academic buildings, I saw a couple of deer and all the fall colors in the trees. I immediately felt like this place could be my home for the next four years.
HS: How does it feel to be playing at the next level?
HK: It feels great to be a part of a team that has a sum that is so much bigger than the individuals alone. I came into my freshman year at Pitt-Greensburg with 29 best friends, so it is such a great support system. However, it also brings a lot of pressure because as an incoming freshman, you want to make an immediate impact. At the end of the day, though, I wouldn’t want to have it any other way.
HS: I know it’s early, but do you have a major in mind?
HK: Yes. I am a biological sciences major with a Spanish minor.
HS: Who has been big influences in your soccer career?
HK: My parents have been the biggest influence because when I was younger, they had to drive me everywhere. As I’ve grown, they’ve still been the best support system in every way possible.
My coaches and teammates have had a big impact as well. My coaches have always known how to get the best out of me, and my teammates have always pushed me.
Growing up, my club career wasn’t always smooth sailing. I actually got cut from my club team freshman year. I was devastated and didn’t have a backup plan. However, Coach John Carbaugh from Penn FC reached out and took a chance on me. I will forever be grateful for the opportunities that him and my goalkeeper trainer, Billy Masri, provided me when I needed it the most.
HS: What age did you start playing soccer?
HK: I started playing soccer relatively late… around 12 years old.
HS: What is your favorite sports memory that you cherish during high school?
HK: My favorite sports memory from high school would have to be when we upset Central 1-0 to advance in District playoffs. The night before, our boys team won their District game 1-0, and I texted Coach saying that it was our turn now. He had hoped for a game that was a little easier on the nerves, but we didn’t give him that. After the game, a reporter (who I didn’t know was a reporter) started interviewing me. I straight up said, “I thought we were going to lose that game.” He then mentioned that he was a reporter, and we had to start the interview all over.
HS: What would you say is your biggest strength on the field?
HK: My knowledge of the game and my position is definitely my biggest strength. I am a goalkeeper, but I am 5’3”. Physically, I shouldn’t be very good at my position. However, by reading the game and positioning myself so that I don’t have to make a ton of crazy saves, I can level the playing field.
My work ethic is also a huge strength because in college sports, nothing comes easy.
HS: What are your individual goals for the upcoming season?
HK: This season, I earned AMCC Defensive Player of the Week, First-Team AMCC All-Tournament Goalkeeper, and AMCC First-Team All-Conference Goalkeeper. So, next season, I would like to earn these honors again. I would also like to earn All-Region Honors, ECAC Honors, and possibly qualify as an All-American. As a team, I want us to defend our AMCC Championship and win our program’s first game at the NCAA DIII National Tournament.
HS: What are your goals for your college tenure? Could be athletics and/or education wise?
HK: Athletically, I would love to be a part of a team that dominates the AMCC for four straight years. I think it would be really cool to have 4 rings at the end of my four years here. I also want to help build the program to be relevant in our region and even at the National Tournament. I would love to earn all of the accolades listed above as many years as possible. However, as a student-athlete, I also hope to maintain a high GPA to get into graduate school to become a Physician Assistant. At the end of the day though, my biggest hope for my time here at UPG is to continue to become a great person and to make an impact on whatever community I settle into.
HS: What has been your favorite sports moment in college?
HK: This is such a hard question. In just one semester, I have so many. Making a last minute save to help the team win the AMCC Championship was definitely my favorite memory.
HS: What advice would you give to any younger athlete starting soccer?
HK: For younger athletes, I would say to just remember that soccer should be fun. So have fun and be confident in yourself. For high school athletes, things won’t always go the way you plan, but at the end of the day, everything will turn out the way God intended.