Rising senior propelled by love of game

Whether Kaylee Akers is playing for her Cox Mill High School team, the Charlotte Soccer Academy or teaching children at her summer job at the University City YMCA in Charlotte, she enjoys being around soccer.

"I can't imagine what my life would be like without soccer," the rising senior said. "Soccer is pretty much what I want to be doing and what I think about every day.

"I don't know what I would do without soccer."

Akers, 17, began playing the sport in recreational leagues when she was only 7, in the suburbs north of Dallas, Texas, where her family lived.

When the Akerses moved to the Charlotte area in 2002, Akers continued to play in the American Youth Soccer Organization recreational league until she was noticed by several club soccer coaches.

"Kaylee progressed very quickly in the game," said Miley Akers, Kaylee's father. "She had a natural ability for the game and for scoring, and her love for the game kept her on the field as much as possible."

Akers added club soccer to her resume when she started playing for the Football Club Carolina Alliance out of Concord, where she began to stand out. There she played for John Cullen, now UNC Charlotte's girls' soccer coach.

Akers played for five years in the FCCA before following Cullen to the prestigious South Charlotte Soccer Club, which turned into the Charlotte Soccer Academy. The academy is a member of the development academy for the U.S. national soccer team.

"Getting exposure to club soccer definitely helped Kaylee's game immensely," said Lori Akers, Kaylee's mother. "But I think every level of soccer, both in rec, high school and club, has brought out something different in her, making her a well-rounded player."

Akers' growth has also been spurred by her opportunities in high school soccer.

Akers began her career at Northwest Cabarrus, where as a freshman she scored 13 goals and assisted on 15 others on a Trojan team that went 17-4-1.

Then Akers and many of her Northwest teammates were redistricted to Cox Mill when it opened for the 2009-10 school year.

"It was hard at first to be switching schools, because it was all new," said Akers. "But in the long run it was good for me. I knew a lot of players looked up to me, and I knew I had to be a leader."

Akers scored 17 goals and had 19 assists in her inaugural season as a Charger and was named All-South Piedmont Conference and all-region.

Akers and her teammates went 17-5-1 (11-3) in Cox Mill's first year, making it to the second round of the state playoffs.

Cox Mill got even better this season, winning 18 of its last 20 games to go 19-4-1 (13-1) to tie Robinson for the SPC title.

Akers, who moved from forward to central midfield this season, scored 11 goals and 19 assists to earn all-conference and all-region honors for the second year in a row.

Next year, Akers says, she hopes to cap her Cox Mill career "as outright conference champions, while going deeper in the playoffs."

In the meantime, this summer is somewhat of a break for Akers, who hasn't played on an organized team during June and July for the first time since she began high school.

She has still found a way to stay involved in the game, however. Working with children at the Y, where she helps with regular soccer games and camps, helps her give back to the game, she said.

Akers also played in the N.C. State Games as a member of the South Region's all-star team. Her team won the high school division's silver medal June 19.

For the next month, Akers will continue to get ready for her senior season, hoping to impress college coaches.

Akers' top interest is with UNC Charlotte and her former coach, Cullen, but she's also looking at Coastal Carolina, Davidson and Winthrop, among others.

No matter where she goes, Akers plans for soccer to be a big part of her future.

"I've been playing soccer ever since I can remember," she said. "When I am not playing soccer, it's just not the same. Soccer is what I want to do when I go to college and when I grow up. I always want soccer to be a big part of my life."