Jayhawks in the Pros: Kayla Morrison
This spring we are catching up with several former KU soccer players who have extended their careers into the professional ranks. This week, Kayla Morrison is featured.
Kayla Morrison was a four-year letterwinner for Kansas soccer from 2013-17. She played in 83-straight matches during her Jayhawk career, starting each of them. Her 7,368 minutes of field time rank as the third-most by any player to wear the Kansas uniform. In her senior year this past fall, she became the first Jayhawk to be name the Big 12’s Defender of the Year after anchoring another stout Kansas back line in 2017.
After graduating in December of 2017 with a degree in communications, she opted to pursue a professional soccer career. She was signed by the FC Bulleen Lions, a team located in Melbourne, Australia, that plays in the Women’s Premier League of Victoria.
Morrison and the 2018 FC Bulleen Lions
Talk about what went into your decision to try and play professionally.
The decision came about two years ago when I was in a meeting with the KU coaches and they asked me, “What do you want to do with soccer?” And I said something like, “I just want to be as good as I can be and let it take me wherever it can.” They told me that if I keep working hard I could keep playing after school, and I thought that sounded amazing.
Up to that point I never really thought I could be that person that had a chance to do that. I decided that if I would try to graduate from school early, it would give me a better chance of finding a team. So once I figured out my path to early graduation, I knew that if I kept working hard in soccer, I would have a shot to make this happen. That was really the whole decision process. I saw that Caroline Van Slambrouck (KU from 2011-14) and Liana Salazar (KU from 2011-15) were still playing. Caroline is doing more of what I wanted to do, travel and play. So I kind of wanted to pursue that route. I knew I wanted to go somewhere that was similar to what I was used to, and California and Australia are pretty similar.
I also think the language part of it was big. Since they all speak English, I knew I could make better connections and have an easier time understanding them. After I talked with Tayler Estrada (KU from 2013-16), she went to Sweden to play, I just didn’t see myself feeling comfortable always questioning what people were saying. So all those factors kind of pushed me in the direction to go try and play in Australia.
How was the trip to Australia?
It was actually really easy. I slept for probably 10 hours on the flight, so I was only awake for four hours of the trip. It wasn’t bad at all.
So what was it like when you first got there?
When I first arrived, my coach picked me up from the airport and took me to the club. The field we play on is owned by this Italian Club, it’s called the Veneto Club. So there’s a restaurant, a casino, multi-function rooms. It’s a really big place. We went there, ate some food then I had practice on that first day. I went to practice and they told me that I didn’t need to participate, but I knew that if I didn’t do it, I wouldn’t make a great first impression on all the girls. So I just sucked it up and finished it. They kept taking jabs at me because I’m American and kept talking about how Americans are really fit so I have to always be in the front when I run. That was a totally different feeling than I’m used to because I feel like at home I’m forced to play more in the back, but here they allow me to get forward more often.
They really just got me right in the swing of it. I told them that I wanted to have a little side job, so I started coaching the U16 team. We started having practice right away, they got me a gym membership, which is also at the club, so we started working out every day.
Morrison is off to a fast start in her
first year with Bulleen.
Moving in was kind of weird because they were giving me all of my furniture, but it would come in piece-by-piece. The first day I just had a mattress, then the next day I got the bed frame, then I got a mirror. So my room and my apartment slowly got filled. They also introduced me to a lot of my local teammates’ families. So I would spend some nights at the different teammates’ houses, which was cool.
How are your teammates?
Everyone is super cool. So far I really like everyone. All of them are Australian. There’s only one other non-Australian on the team, but she’s from New Zealand and has lived here for about five years. So I’m really the only true “international” on the team.
How’s the lodging?
One of my teammates moved down from Queensland and she got an apartment and needed a roommate so they put me in with her. It’s nice. It reminds me a lot of the Towers (dorms at KU). Our apartment is right across from where the club is so I can just walk there and a lot of the girls live around me so I can get rides from them and they take me places.
What do you do for meals?
I always cook breakfast. I occasionally go eat at the club for lunch, because they let me eat for free there. And for dinner, since people know I can’t really cook because we are so spoiled at KU, a lot of times parents just come and bring me food and left-overs. The U16 team that I coach, one of the moms brings me food probably three times a week. She’s amazing. She literally cooks me food and brings it to me three times a week. I’m very spoiled.
Talk a little bit more about tour contract and what the team provides you.
They provide everything for my housing, all my equipment, they give me food, they gave me my gym membership. They cover all my insurance costs, which is something I didn’t even think about. They provided me with two jobs. So in addition to coaching, I work at the club’s bar. They also paid for my flight down here and they’re trying to track down a car for me. Since I’m on a temporary visa I don’t need to get a new driver’s license, which is nice.
Every game I get paid, but I think every girl gets paid a different amount. There are 27 games, one game a week. The season is pretty long, I think it ends in September.
Talk about the soccer aspect. How has that been?
The soccer part has been good. It’s very different. There isn’t as much running and chasing that ball like there is in the States. The game is a lot slower, mostly because the substitution rules are different. We don’t make a sub until the second half. That part has been different, but just the playing style is different and it took me a while to get used to that. I would try and hit a long ball into the corner and the forward would like at me and say, “Just play it to my feet next time.”
MORRISON’S FIRST NPLW GOAL
Morrison and the Lions are eight matches into the 2018 regular season. Bulleen currently sits fourth on the league table at 4-3-1, with Morrison starting in all eight matches. She has has already netted a pair of goals. The Women’s Premier League plays its matches on Saturdays and Sundays. You can follow Morrison and her team’s progress on the squad’s Facebook page, HERE.
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