Photo by Christine Troyke
If you watch Lindsay Kempf without the ball during a soccer game, you might wonder how she's one of the county's top soccer players.
The Mill Creek junior has been known to stumble, trip or fall during games with no one around her. She has a good excuse for her lack of grace though.
"I have goofy feet," Kempf said. "I kind of trip over them sometimes because I have big feet. It doesn't affect my touch."
Put a soccer ball by her feet and that is evident.
Kempf has a unique skill with the ball that makes up for her occasional clumsiness. She helped Mill Creek to its first winning season last year and has the Hawks (8-4) in the mix for a playoff spot this year.
"She's extremely skillful," Mill Creek coach Brent Leitsch said. "She has a great work ethic, is fast, intelligent, but what really separates her is what she can do with the ball at her feet. She's worked hard to have that and it's paying off for her."
Kempf started as a freshman for Mill Creek and it was clear she could play at the varsity level.
"When she came in as a freshman, she could do highly skillful things without pressure on her, but when pressure came down to it she had trouble," Leitsch said. "Now she can do it with two people around her, three people around her, she can control the ball at her foot."
Kempf began to take control of the team early last season. The Hawks had several starters out for their game against Columbus. It wasn't a region game or the toughest team they would play all season, but Kempf showed she could step up and play well when the team needed her. She posted three goals and two assists in the win.
"She's there. She's involved," Leitsch said. "A lot of our success depends on how she plays. If she plays well, we think we're going to do well."
The midfielder scored seven goals and had 14 assists last season to lead Mill Creek to an 11-7 record, the first winning mark in school history. That success has continued this season, sparked by a 6-1 start that featured the Hawks' first win over Peachtree Ridge.
"This is definitely our best year," Kempf said. "We have a lot of great talent coming up. We're playing a lot better soccer than we have in the past years."
Kempf has already committed to the University of South Carolina to play soccer, joining former Gwinnett standouts Christine Watts (Peachtree Ridge) and Danielle Au (North Gwinnett), among others. She's the first Mill Creek girls soccer player to commit to a Division I school, but likely not the last anytime soon.
Kempf is part of a standout junior class that features Torie Scalera, Tessa Lukens, Jessica Hall, Tatum O'Keefe and Cari Powell. The program has gone from just two wins its first year in 2005 to a winning season last year. With Kempf and her goofy feet leading the way, a playoff spot may be on the horizon.
"Our goal is to make the playoffs," Kempf said. "I don't know about region, we do have a tough region, but if we keep winning we can make the playoffs. That's our goal."