Finding the perfect spot on and off the soccer field has not been easy for KK Barr of St. Charles, but the Northwestern University sophomore keeps making successful transitions.
Take, for example, the adjustment of being called KK instead of her given name, Kaitlin. She has her younger (by 15 months) brother Quint to thank for that.
“When he first started to talk, he couldn’t say Kaitlin,” Barr explains. “It came out KK, and for some reason it stuck.”
Barr spent most of her formative years in the Seattle area and, as a freshman, helped the Redmond (Wash.) High School girls soccer team reach the state quarterfinals. Before her sophomore year, the family relocated to the St. Charles North district.
“It was very hard at first,” she says, noting that the only people she knew were her teammates on the Strikers soccer club. “As soon as the high school season started, it made things a lot easier. I started hanging out with kids at the school, and I think soccer really helped with that.”
At North, Barr was a three-year letterwinner in soccer. The North Stars finished third in the IHSA Class 3A state tournament in her senior year. Barr was a defender, but would join in the attack when the opportunity arose. She scored three goals in a game against Larkin in 2010.
Her versatility pay dividends in college, but first she had to decide between prestigious academic schools such as the University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins that played NCAA Division III soccer or Division I programs such as Northern Illinois, Toledo and Central Michigan.
“I was torn between wanting to play D-I and D-III,” Barr said. “I was kind of all over the board. I think I went on like 14 visits. Northwestern was actually the last one I visited and I fell in love with it right away.”
Barr thought NU represented “the perfect balance” of academics and athletics.
“I’m completely happy,” she says. “I love it here.”
Barr played in eight matches for the Wildcats as a freshman and started two, Her first start came at Nebraska in a nationally televised game because it marked the first Big Ten competition in any sport for the Cornhuskers.
The team was not very successful, winning just two games, leading to some coaching changes. New coach Mike Moynahan and his staff decided Barr might be more useful as a forward than an outside defender.
“It was more fun for me to get up the field and dribble down the side and try to cross it,” said Barr, whose younger sister, Jenny, is a junior for St. Charles North who already has committed to play at Miami (Ohio). “It was a lot more exciting for me.”
Moving Barr to forward immediately paid off for the Wildcats as she contributed to a successful debut for Moynahan by assisting on a goal in Northwestern’s upset win at Kansas. The victory was all the sweeter because it came on Barr’s birthday.
Barr had assists in each of the next two matches and scored her first collegiate goal against Northern Illinois as Northwestern started the season 4-2-1. The Wildcats struggled at the start of Big Ten play, losing their first eight conference matches, but finished the year with three straight wins.
“That was exciting,” Barr said. “My hope is for our team to make the Big Ten tournament next year.”
Barr’s production tapered off toward the end of the season and there turned out to be a good reason – a torn labrum in her right hip.
An MRI after the end of the season confirmed the injury and she had surgery in December. She says the recovery period is usually four to six months.
“I don’t get to actually start running until April,” she said.
She’ll miss the entire spring season.
“I just need to be patient with the injury,” she says. “You can’t rush it or it will come back to bite you in the future. … I’m hoping to come back better than ever.”
Given Barr’s history of successful transitions, it’s a good bet she will.
• Dennis D. Jacobs writes a weekly On Campus column about area athletes competing in college. If you have a column idea, contact him at email@example.com.