Back in the Fall of 2007, when the UCSB women’s soccer team was absolutely loaded on defense but, due to injuries and graduation, was barren on offense, true freshman walk-on Kailyn Kugler took center stage. Now after completion of a junior year that saw her named Big West Offensive Player of the Year, Kugler is showing no signs of leaving it.

“She’s always been such a good player,” said junior defender Julia Speace. “She’s good enough to start at any position, has a nose for the goal and a great shot … just naturally gifted at soccer. It doesn’t surprise me at all that she’s done so well in college.”

After leading San Clemente High to league titles in 2005, 2006 and helping West Coast Futbol Club earn four different championships in 2007 as well, Kugler seemed set on playing for the University of San Diego upon graduation. However, her parents had already paid for her to attend Head Coach Paul Stumpf’s Soccer Academy at UCSB in the summer.

“I came, I played, and on the last day of camp [Stumpf] pulled me and Julia Speace aside and gave us an offer to come to the school,” said Kugler. “We came here as walk-ons, no scholarship, but we were fine with that because the school was obviously awesome. … We proved to the coaches we deserved to play, and now we’re two main players on the team.”

Even as a walk-on, Kugler made an immediate impact on a Gaucho squad short on offensive flair. After finishing the year leading UCSB in points (14), goals (6) and shots (46), Kugler earned Big West Freshman of the Year accolades as well as a spot on the Honorable Mention list. It wouldn’t be her last award.

“I think [the awards] are huge accomplishment,” Kugler said. “This year I was shocked with what I got, but very excited at the same time.”

Even with the return of the then-junior Genelle Ives in 2008 to help shoulder the scoring load, Kugler played better than ever, netting seven goals and four assists for 18 total points.

“I think this year we just needed someone to step up because we just had so many line-up changes,” said Speace. “Especially at the forward position. We needed someone to step up, and [Kugler] took that by the reins… After she began scoring she just went on a streak and didn’t stop. I don’t know what we would have done without her.”

After leading UCSB again in goals (9), points (23) and being awarded Big West Offensive Player of the Year, the Gaucho’s star forward has one more year of eligibility before graduation. Where Kugler goes from there is anybody’s guess.

“Ideally, I’d love to travel and play somewhere, maybe in a different state or different country,” said Kugler. “Doing something like that in this economy would be awesome, but if not, probably just search for a job like every other college grad.”