Golden Goal for a Golden Girl: When Kayla wins I win too #1313

Eliot Ben-Ner
12 min readNov 5, 2021


South Dakota state for one of the most impressive teams in the Summit League conference this season. They have been able to handle the majority of the opposition that has been put in front of the outside of the games against Creighton and Denver; they have been a pretty Unstoppable Force this season, attributed mainly to Maya Hansen individually proving to be one of the best players of the region. A few months ago, I wrote an article detailing why Maya Hansen will become a professional footballer throughout the season; she is already proving my point; she has gotten help from the lot of incredible pieces behind her Freshman Laney Murdzek and more having weapons throughout the side. The jackrabbits went into the postseason with the mindset ambition to return to the NCAA tournament as Brock Thompson wanting to right the wrongs of their defeat against Oklahoma State and the NCAA Tournament 2 years ago, an opportunity with a squad of great young girls with the mindset the winning attitude and the ambition to do something special in the tournament if they get there. While I have my reservations about how well they can do when they arrive, there was work to be done. They entered the summit league tournament as of the favorites they got through the quarterfinals even though they were tested, showing the squad’s character and connectivity. Maya Hansen with a stunning performance, but we shouldn’t have expected anything less from the best player in the conference. Maya has been an absolute monster striking fear into the opposition regularly; the stage was set for her to be the star of the show against the University of Omaha with the pressure on the ambition of the NCAA tourney in the back of their mind even if there were going to be testing moments it was a game where most people believed that Maya Hansen was the one to save them. After 90 minutes, there was still no separation between the teams. It was going to take something special the stage may have been set for Maya Hansen, but an unlikely hero rose From the Ashes with a possibility of rising from the ruins. No pun intended, but a center-forward that I worked with side-by-side for over a year, someone who has built her footballing career on her ability to come up big in the massive moments. Kayla Anderson comes off the bench having a Mario Gotze moment as she stole the show with one touch of the foot. South Dakota State’s number 11 Kayla Anderson, someone I know very well would be the one to put the dagger in Omaha a touch of the foot as the ball crosses the line the goalkeeper attempting to reach to keep it in but was unable to do as she just lays there on the ground an absolute disgust. At the same time, Kayla Anderson and South Dakota State erupted as she scores of Golden Goal taking South Dakota State on the verge of the NCAA tournament. Three years earlier, I saw Kayla play in person for the first time, a moment that I never forgot scoring a game-winner in the battle of the lake. Kayla may not be starting a lot of games, but Kayla is someone who’s gone through everything to get to this point. She was built. For a moment like this, Kayla comes off the bench and becomes a hero score in the Golden Goal that has South Dakota State on the verge of being a part of the NCAA tourney. Does it surprise me? No, it doesn’t, but it doesn’t make it any less emotional as My Pal Kayla delivers a symbolic moment in college soccer.

Early Criticism but Brock Thomson won me over

A few months ago, during an international break, I did a couple of articles surrounding South Dakota state girls soccer hear it as an avid fan a woman’s football and my involvement with both Kayla Anderson and Maya Hansen as a football journalist and writer I always have an opinion on a lot of different things. Even though South Dakota state does not employ me, I felt some frustrations earlier in the season that I expressed. I was harsh but fair with some of my criticism. Football is my life. I am putting myself around constantly. I watch every league in the world you can imagine. We’re winning South Dakota State, but as far as a long-term objective, they were just some things I saw differently from Brock Thompson. I was concerned with the lack of playing time that Kayla was receiving. In comparison to her freshman season, it didn’t seem like she was getting as many opportunities. I deeply cared for Kayla and wanted her to have the best possible chance to thrive at the next level in college soccer. I felt like considering the attacking options that the team has and how the manager could fit her into the team. As a fan of Kayla, I just want her to have more minutes to show what she can do. I thought the formation they have played at times didn’t suit the style and could be exposed against more challenging games at South Dakota State plays a very winnable schedule the back three. If you are an Antonio Conte, I respect Brock Thompson, and he’s done a tremendous job with the program, but he’s not Antonio Conte; all I wanted was for Kayla to get chances to show them how special she is. Playing her in a false 9 is something I have been saying for the last three years; she still hasn’t been utilized in that way. However, throughout the season, we have seen Kayla get more and more involved, and even though she may not be making an impact on statistics, she’s influencing once she gets solid minutes. From a football point of view, some of the decisions that they were making did not make a lot of sense to me it wasn’t written in a vindictive way it was just my objective point of view on things, having worked with Kayla side-by-side for almost a year I kind of have somewhat of a feel of what the best way for her to get involved into an attacking style that South Dakota State play. Following the publishing of the article, the Instagram account of the soccer program reached out to me; it was very cordial; although they did take issue with some of the things that I said, they gave me an email for the athletic director and said they would be willing to help me future articles or interviews potentially. I never took it up, at least as of yet, mostly because I messaged Kayla about it, and she did not respond. I didn’t get a response; I let it go and never followed through. Since the article was written, Brock Thompson made adjustments to put Kayla in positions to be more involved. She came on over the last couple of games and made a mark. However, against Omaha, he got it right; he brought Kayla on in a very important I’m allowing her to become the hero when no one expected her to. She put her in position, and she came up big like she always does. Kayla Anderson is built for the big game she’s done in her entire career so far. I’m not sure why that is; maybe it’s having to go through adversity she feels like she can do anything. When I saw Kayla play live for the first time, she did exactly that. It was the most nervous I’ve ever been I had any football match because I was going to meet her for the first time she put on a show as White Bear Lake came from behind Kayla scored twice, including a goal in the minutes she’s built to perform when the pressure is on she always seems to thrive in those circumstances Brock Thompson recognize this and put Kayla in position to do just that Kayla may not have had to do a lot to score that goal considering the link-up play from Laney Murdzek and Maya sending in the cross the goalkeeping may have also played a part in all of it. Kayla connected with the ball, but it wasn’t a great strike, but she did enough for the ball across the line. I have been critical of Brock Thompson at times, but he saw something in Kayla and a game with you pressure on it an extra time, and Kayla went out there providing the touch that got South Dakota State on the verge of the NCAA tourney. Since Brock Thomspon has made the right adjustments, I am now thoroughly on board with what he is doing.

Our Partnership in 2019 Prepared Kayla for when the Camera Turned on

Kayla Anderson and I worked side-by-side during her senior season at White Bear Lake. I went to every game I could; after each game and performance, I would ask her a collection of tough tactical questions. She was able to handle pretty much anything I asked her with great explanation while being humble at the same time. This was much earlier in my career when I may not have been asking the best questions but could keep her brain stimulated and prepare her for the future. I don’t know what happens behind the scenes, but Kayla very rarely is being interviewed; it’s not something that’s happening on a week in and week out. Obviously scoring the Golden Goal in a game that sees them on the verge of the NCAA tournament, the media talked to her after the game. She probably wasn’t expecting it when you’re the hero; a camera is going to be put in your face. There might have been a level of nerves before that moment. When had she been here before? for a 16-game season? I was asking Kayla Anderson difficult questions about their season daily. Kayla was prepared for this moment because of how often she was being put in a situation that I put her in. Her post-game Interview was brilliant; she handled it like an absolute champ did a great job of going into detail breaking down the scenario of her scoring the Golden Goal while also staying incredibly humble as she always does, taking the credit off herself and giving it to her teammates something that I’ve always admired about her. I thought the interview questions themselves were rather plain; the interviewer could have gotten more out of the Interview; she handled the questions that she was asked and showed her class while doing it. It’s hard to believe it was three years ago when I was the one asking her the questions. As someone that has worked with her, I am incredibly proud of the way she handled that. It’s not easy when a camera is stuck in your face, and you need to know the right things to say, but she did an amazing job dealing with the pressure and magnitude of all of it, from scoring the winning goal to handling the post-game it was masterful. She may not admit it, and she may not realize it; the reason I believe she was able to handle that moment so well was that she had to answer these questions constantly during her senior year in high school me having to test her repeatedly it prepared for this moment it was a beautiful thing to see that’s something I did able to prepare her for something unexpected. She’s an amazing interview because she gives you incredible insight and information from behind the scenes and on the pitch, and she’s able to deflect questions that she would rather not answer in this particular Interview; she didn’t do that but having interviewed her frequently she just really knows how to handle herself and even if I only helped her a little the fact that I was able to help her at all makes me feel incredibly prideful about everything leading up to this moment.

The Moment Deserved: The Best Person I have ever Worked with

Kayla and I Following a 2–1 victory in the Battle of the Lake in 2019

I have been a football writer and journalist since August of 2015. I have been publishing content for over six years. Kayla Anderson is not the only person I have worked with. I have worked with a lot of different people across the platform. Before I worked with Kayla, I collaborated with her teammate South Dakota State leading goal scorer and best player Maya Hansen; even though I am proud of the work we did together, some complications were surrounding all of it wasn’t as memorable experience even though I don’t hold anything against her. I’ve worked with other journalists as well, not to mention the people I work with every week six years of writing. Kayla is, without question, the best and the favorite person I’ve ever worked with. I probably got more out of our partnership than Kayla did; however, the year we collaborated was the best year of my entire life. I thoroughly enjoyed every step of it, getting an opportunity to regularly talk with the best player in the state and one of the nicest kids I have ever met. Three years ago, when we worked together, she gave me unlimited access to the ongoing at White Bear Lake High School girls soccer program. I felt that the more time I spent with her, the more I talked to her, the more I got to know her. Without Kayla, I never would have written my first book, even if it’s not finished yet. None of this would have ever happened if Kayla hadn’t agreed to work with me and been so transparent and kind to me during the whole process doing all these things to make my job as the writer more fun and enjoyable. I’ve seen her grow and develop as a person and a human being, and even though I don’t know what she is like socially for what she does for fun on the weekends, I got to know her deeply from in her bones the things that she is gone through the adversity that she has battled constantly not to mention the winning attitude and winning intangibles what she possesses on the pitch how hard she works how determined she is with everything she does. The fact that she’s so humble and so kind to everyone it’s been three years since I first started working with her, and every day I miss it. She was the most extraordinary person to work with. Since we stopped working together, I have not collaborated with another High School athlete, and the reason is I thought it would be impossible for anyone to follow Kayla. I wouldn’t necessarily say that we’re friends, but we are connected in one way or another; we are very different personalities but also are quite similar, giving us the luxury to be able to Vibe with each other in certain respects while not at all in others. I will always be her biggest fan, no matter the circumstances. When my book is completely finished, and I have a copy in my hand, giving it to Kayla when it is done will be an amazing moment. I look forward to it every time I think about it. Kayla is without question one of the 10–20 greatest high school players of all time, the best player in the history of White Bear Lake, and it seems like she has a bright future with the jackrabbits. I couldn’t watch the game in live time, but watching the clip and her Interview brought tears. To see her score a golden goal in a playoff game with a berth in the NCAA tournament on the line now just 90 minutes away, it’s all I ever wanted for her. I could not be more proud of what she was able to achieve tonight it is no small feat. She is a Division 1 college soccer player that just scored a golden goal in extra time; she’s accomplished something that very few people will ever do; as I write each word, I feel an even bigger sense of pride that our paths crossed each other and we were able to work together even though we don’t work together anymore I remain her biggest fan when I learned what had happened in tonight’s game I cried I have a love for Kayla and I always will she should celebrate but only for the moment there is more work to be done and more challenges that await her this turned out to be a very emotional night for me because when Kayla wins, I feel like I win too.