Fearless on the Pitch
BOULDER – Over the last five seasons of Colorado soccer, there has been one constant. Kayleigh Webb day in and day out has been there for the Buffaloes for better or worse.
The fifth-year senior from San Marcos, Calif., started her very first game at Air Force in 2018 and every game since. Sunday's match against Oregon will be her 92nd career start, which will set a new mark for CU field players, passing Laura Munnelly's (2003-06) 91 starts.
It's almost a miracle Webb hasn't missed a match, let alone a start in her career. She goes from zero to 100 MPH on the pitch at the drop of a dime, pushing aside any regard for her body.
Just take last Sunday at Washington for example. The Buffs were trailing 2-0 in the 66th minute when a 50/50 ball was sent into the goal box. Webb tracked it down but met the UW goalkeeper in midair, bouncing off the tender and faceplanted into the goal post.
10 minutes later, after being cleared by both the Washington and Colorado medical staffs Webb was back on the field, sporting a fresh black eye and a broken nose.
"The team jokes that my body is rubber and that no matter what I get hit with I just bounce right back up," Webb joked. "It doesn't matter how many times I'm on the floor, I'm getting right back up. This was the first bone I have ever broken. I feel fine with it. I pride myself on not giving up and it's not just for myself but my team. I want them to see that I'm getting hit but I'm also trying my hardest and picking myself up and going as hard as I can."
Webb rarely - if ever - finishes a contest with a clean uniform, no matter the conditions or the result. The Buffs suffered their first loss of the season at Michigan State and Webb was out there sliding all over in the pouring rain. The same could be said about Thursday's match against Oregon State, where she made a last-second tackle at mid-field to keep CU's 3-2 lead intact.
"Even at the club level I was known as the person that slid everywhere, the person that gave it her all," Webb noted. "Dave [Morgan] always jokes about being a warrior on the field. I do put my body on the line for every single thing. I knew that coming to college was going to be harder because the girls were going to be stronger and I needed to get stronger. In the first game at Air Force, I was sliding all over the place, getting hit, hitting others and I just knew I could compete at this level with the way that I played."
Her willingness to do whatever it takes is something that hasn't gone unnoticed throughout the years.
"Kayleigh is always willing to just lay out for our team, which is incredible," teammate Civana Kuhlmann added. "We need that. We've had a few tight games with both close losses and wins. I think it starts with actions and selflessness like that and the mentality to just get stuck in and win. We need that all over the field and Kayleigh's always setting that standard, which is awesome."
Webb has now played every position on the field for head coach Danny Sanchez. She started her career as a defender and has gradually worked her way up the field and earning recognition as a team captain this season.
"She brings us a spark," Sanchez said of Webb's play. "She brings the energy. Even that tackle [against Oregon State] when one of their best players is running at goal with 20 seconds to go, she wins that tackle to kill the game off. I think that the energy she brings is infectious and I think she's doing a really good job on and off the field as a captain."
Kuhlmann, a newcomer to the team this season, was no stranger to Webb and her play. Kuhlmann has the unique ability to discuss the misfortune of playing against the tenacious Buff as an opponent at Stanford and now has the pleasure of being alongside her as well.
"I have been playing against Kayleigh for a few years now so knew she wasn't a forward," Kuhlmann said about getting to play with Webb. "It's funny. In our first captain's practices this summer I just remember watcher her and just thinking her movement was just so smart and just logical on the field. When we got talking more and she was trying to learn from me as a forward and telling me that she watched what I do to try and learn the position. I found that funny because I think what she does is just so smart already and she's just a true player who knows what to do."
Webb had scored four goals in her first four seasons, with her best effort coming in 2021 (2 G). This season, she has set career-highs in goals (6), assists (3) and points (15) with her move to the top of the formation.
But the goals are just a happy byproduct for her, as long as she's contributing elsewhere.
"I've never been a trough goal scorer," Webb explained. "I've been someone that likes to get assists. Growing up my dad always told me that assists are more important because you're the one that's creating the play. You're the one that's giving someone else the opportunity. I have been big on getting assists. Obviously, I'd like to score but if I'm just helping the team out in any way possible, I'm good with it."
The switch to forward has been seemingly flawless as she has a point in five of the last six games and is second on the team in Pac-12 play with six points (2 G, 2 A). Her three-point game against Oregon State was the second of the season.
"Now that I'm in the attack, it's giving me a chance to score and I'm just having fun."
Sunday's kickoff is set for 1 p.m. MT. The game will be streamed on CUBuffs.com/WatchSoc. Fans are encouraged to wear gold and arrive early to celebrate Soctoberfest. There will be a t-shirt giveaway as well as discounted beer. Ralphie is also set to run before kickoff and will be at the field in the pregame.