Aug. 24, 2016
By Joanne Norell
NOTRE DAME, Ind. — University of Notre Dame senior goalkeeper Kaela Little has been a mainstay for the Irish since she first set foot on campus. Entering her fourth year as the Irish starting goalkeeper, Little is now a first-time captain and looking to lead the squad to a deep NCAA Championship run in 2016. She helped the Irish get off to a strong start last weekend, shutting out Wright State and Wisconsin as Notre Dame picked up a pair of wins. Her seven saves against Wisconsin on Sunday were key in a defensive battle in which the Badgers outshot the Irish, good for her 27th career solo shutout. She — and classmate Kaleigh Olmsted — sat down recently for the latest installment of “Ten Questions.”
TEN QUESTIONS WITH Kaela Little
1. How would you describe your leadership style?
I would say I’m a lead-by-example type of person and I also have a strong voice on the field. I think that having been able to play the last three years, I have gained a lot of experience, which I think is especially viable with a back line with a lot of new faces on it after graduating three seniors (last season).
2. What’s your favorite Notre Dame memory?
There are so many! (Long pause)
I don’t think I have a favorite but one of them was definitely Junior Parents’ Weekend last spring. At least one of our parents from everyone in my class came up and were able to get together and hang out before the main Notre Dame event and it was just so much fun have everyone and everyone’s parents there. It just kind of added a little something —
Kaleigh Olmsted: You could tell who everybody came from.
Little: Oh yeah, you could definitely relate the kids and the parents. So it was just a lot of fun to have all of our families here for that big weekend and be able to have fun with each other.
3. What about your favorite soccer memory?
Can I say Notre Dame and non-Notre Dame?
OK. My favorite non-Notre Dame soccer memory, (my club team) was playing in the regional finals in my sophomore year of high school and no team from Oklahoma had ever won regionals before. I saved a penalty kick during regulation of the game and we ended up winning 1-0, so that was a very big highlight for me and then going on to win and being the first team from Oklahoma to do that was really special.
My favorite Notre Dame soccer memory with the team has been –every year the freshman class does a freshman dance before our first real game and our freshman class, the eight of us got together 45 minutes before we were supposed to perform in front of the entire team, who we’d only been through and known for two weeks in preseason and we just choreographed this dance. We put a playlist together —
Olmsted: We? (Rilka Noel) and I.
Little And (Cindy Pineda). But it was so. Much. Fun. I just remember bellyache laughing the entire time and we went in front of our teammates and we crushed it. Everyone was dying laughing and it was really funny. It was definitely one of my favorite memories and I don’t think any freshman class has lived up to it. We set the standard pretty high.
4. If you could be any superhero, who would you be?
Olmsted: She loves superheroes! This is a super-hard question for her.
Little: (Sigh) Oh my gosh, OK, well, the Black Widow’s not technically a superhero because she doesn’t have superpowers. There are so many good options!
Olmsted: She has Avengers boxer pants.
Little: Even though I don’t consider her a superhero with superpowers, I think the Black Widow as a primary member of the Avengers would have to be one of my favorite superheroes. I just think she’s very (cool) and she’s able to hold her own against all these supervillains and other superheroes who actually have special powers, that can fly or can spit green acid goo. I think that’s pretty cool that she can hold her own against all these other people who you would normally think would have an advantage over her. And she’s like,”Power to women.”
5. What is your favorite hobby outside of soccer?
I love to cook. I’ll try cooking anything. I got into it with my dad in high school because he started picking it up, so I would always help him cook dinner. Then at home I’ll make anything from spaghetti bolognese to basic chicken to grilling. I do overnight oats, which is just this thing on Pinterest I found. I have a pretty good salmon recipe I enjoy cooking that seems to be a hit. I just like to find new recipes if I’m on Food Network or Pinterest and try them out.
6. What is your main goal for the season?
My main goal for the season is to create a culture of inclusiveness, one where everyone feels like they have a voice and feels that they’re playing for something bigger than themselves. I’ve come to realize that after two weeks into my senior season that the seniors who’ve come before me, when I thought they were being a little intense or a little crazy with how much they push people, I’ve really come to understand why they did that because as a senior, it’s your last season and you don’t understand that sense of urgency until you’re in that position.
7. Who’s your soccer role model?
I never really looked up to anyone growing up like a Mia Hamm or a Hope Solo. I was never obsessed with any USA team members. I’d have to say one of my very first club coaches (Kevin King) who actually played under Randy Waldrum at the University of Tulsa, he definitely instilled in me the type of work ethic needed to reach the collegiate level and to be able to play at a Division I school like Notre Dame. He always pushed me and encouraged me to reach my full potential, but at the same time remembering to have fun and play free when I am playing.
8. What are your goals for after graduation?
After graduation, I would like to try to play professionally, either in the States or overseas. If I get the opportunity, I’m definitely going to take it because I’m not going to come back after five years off when I’m 26 and try and go play again. I think right now is the time to do it if I’m going to do it and it’s something I’m passionate about and want to try and do. Besides that, I want to go to grad school and get my master’s in some form of management and then from there I don’t know. We’re just going to play it by ear.
9. What was the best part of preseason?
Last night (August 15) we had a team bonding activity and we played a bunch of fun games and we were all with a partner, so we tried to do kind of random pairings and I was with (freshman) Sami Zepponi. Every team of two dressed up and we had Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy and we had a Playboy bunny and Hugh Hefner; we had Shrek and Donkey, so really funny and really clever costumes. Sami and I dressed as Dwight K. Schrute and Michael Scott from The Office. We looked amazing. Sami went to the thrift store and found different things for our costumes and it was hysterical. Everyone went all out and it was a lot of fun. We gave out prizes for games and best dressed, which Sami and I won. It was just a lot of fun and everyone was having a good time, acting goofy, super relaxed. It was fun just kind of hanging out and taking a break from soccer and keeping our minds off the grind that is preseason.
10. If you could spend a day doing anything, what would you do?
Oh my gosh! I would spend a day being a Chopped judge. I would literally spend a day being a judge on Chopped. I’d like to go through normal Chopped; I’d like to go through Chopped Masters; and I’d like to go through Chopped Junior.
Olmsted: What would be your slogan every time you tasted the food?
Little: Well, it would depend on how it tasted. Gaze off into the distance, chew slowly. I think that would be a lot of fun, though.
OH! I would also do a recording of some animated film. I think that would be so cool. That would be so much fun. I would be an animal in a film. It would be something similar to Zootopia, because I love that movie. I’ve seen it five times.