Credit: Photo taken by Alan Sharp
Krzeczowski defending the goal during a USC women’s soccer game.

The University of South Carolina’s Women’s soccer program has grown tremendously over the past three years. With two Southeastern Conference championship rings under their belt, you could say they’re unstoppable. Goalkeeper Mikayla Krzeczowski’s drive and determination fuel the team’s success, as she’s the goalkeeper with the highest number of shutouts in school history.

Krzeczowski’s been playing soccer for 17 years and realized her passion around the age of 11. Taking the sport more seriously, she transitioned to club soccer, eventually working her way up to the state and regional Olympic development programs.

When choosing a university soccer program, she knew that USC’s team was the best fit. She left high school a semester early to start college because she wanted to join a program that would accept her with open arms.

Krzeczowski says, “I was extremely nervous jumping into the middle of the school year and then on top of that our season is in the fall, so spring is all about development and lifting weights with long practices. The team at the time really did help me transition because the speed of play was a lot different so it was difficult adjusting at first.”

As Krzeczowski got more comfortable with the team, she began to be recognized. She broke several records and even received the All-Southeastern Conference First Team award as a freshman.

Krzeczowski says, “I was incredibly humbled to receive this award and be recognized in my rookie year. As far as records go, I wish I could give them to some of my defenders because they helped me out.”

Clark McCarthy, assistant coach working with USC’s goalkeepers, says he’s not surprised by these accomplishments and recognizes Krzeczowski’s positive impact on the team.

McCarthy says, “I think when she steps over the white line and the whistle blows, she kind of gets into her zone, and she’s very consistent. You don’t see a lot of mistakes out of her which is a good thing that separates her from most.”

McCarthy’s worked as Krzeczowski’s coach for three years and says he enjoys watching her grow as a player. He continues to help her improve her range within the net, stretch for flighted balls and kicking. This contributes to her overall gaming ability.

He says, “I think something she’s grown in and continues to grow in is just her overall ability to read the game.”

Anna Conklin, graduate assistant coach and director of operations, says she, too, sees improvements. She says Krzeczowski came in as a strong goalkeeper but didn’t understand how vital she was to the team.

Conklin says, “From freshman year to now she’s absolutely realized how important she is to the function of the team, and she does what she can do to the best of her ability in order for the success of the team.”

Conklin, who graduated in 2018, has gotten to both play alongside Krzeczowski and coach her. She says this unique position allows her to best improve Krzeczowski’s skills.

She says, “It’s given me a different perspective, for example with Krzeczowski, if I hear and see things from the point of view of McCarthy it gives me the ability to communicate information to her that may not be communicated that well.”

It also helps Conklin identify Krzeczowski’s strengths and skill set. Some of her biggest strengths are her competitiveness and ability to take advantage of every opportunity given.

Elexa Bahr, who plays forward on the team, says she recognizes Krzeczowski as a strong player.

“She is on the smaller than normal size as far as goalkeepers, but know that she just uses it really well. She’s driven and sees a challenge ahead and won’t back down from it,” Bahr says.

Bahr, along with Conklin and McCarthy view Krzeczowski as a team leader.

Conklin says, “Krzeczowski became a natural leader when she performed with a certain amount of eliteness. Once she started to play every game and get chemistry with everyone, people automatically started to respect her and give her credibility.”

As far as a future in professional soccer, Krzeczowski is excited for what’s in store. She says the next step would be a national program, and she’s working hard to get in the best position to be ready. McCarthy wants to strengthen her other areas of the game and says she will be exactly what professional soccer wants.

He says, “She’s got all the tangibles as a goalkeeper you want, and if you were looking for someone that is going to give you a chance to win a game from a goalkeeping standpoint she’s as good as anybody, so we are just trying to sharpen up the other areas of her game.”

As Krzeczowski prepares for her last season with the soccer team she says she is lucky to be a part of the program when they won two SEC championship rings. She thinks having those rings on the shelf is a great motivator.

Her favorite college experiences in soccer are basic. “The best time was after we beat Florida at home in the Elite Eight and entered our very first Final Four. It was elating beating them 2-to-0, and having such a strong win really lifted this program to a whole new level,” Krzeczowski says.

Krzeczowski’s glad she began soccer 17 years ago. She says that her drive and passion will lead her to something great after her time on USC’s team.