WINTHROP — Each year as her soccer career progressed, it seemed as though Kylie Rolbiecki got further and further away from the goal.

“I played striker in fifth grade,” said the Mt. Abram senior. “Each year, I’d get moved back a position. I was a striker and then a midfielder, then a stopper and then a sweeper.”

Rolbiecki has done well for herself in those various roles. She’s been a two-year starter at sweeper for the Roadrunners and was an all-state defender last year. This season, however, she’s moving in a new direction. With 10 seniors graduating from last year, Rolbiecki is moving back to the midfield.

“It’s pretty interesting,” said Rolbiecki, who debuted at the position Monday in a scrimmage against Winthrop. “When I was at sweeper, I’d just be chilling out out back and just help everybody. Now I’m kind of more in the middle of everything.”

That’s kind of what coach Marc Keller was thinking when he decided to make the switch last week. With a player of Rolbiecki’s poise, skill and leadership in the midfield, she can have a greater impact for the Roadrunners.

“I needed that strong powerful player to control the midfield and she has that ability,” said Keller. “I was just trying to piece things together. I had a couple of girls stepping up and playing very well defensively. I realized I could take her out of that role and still feel confident with what we have defensively to still utilize her in the midfield.”

The Roadrunners have a very different look this year. After losing four fellow all-state players in Rachel Fullerton, Emma James, Rebecca London and Rebecca Fullerson, Mt. Abram has lost a wealth of experience and talent from a team that went 14-0 last year before losing in the Western C semifinals. That’s where Rolbiecki’s presence is a welcome benefit to this year’s squad.

“It’s very nice to have that leadership,” said Keller. “She was a captain for us, too. So it’s not just the play, it’s the whole leadership ability that she carries. That’s huge for this team.”

It’s quite an adjustment for Rolbiecki. Many of the friends she has played soccer with in recent years are now gone. There’s a very new cast of players around her.

“It’s very different,” she said. “Last year we had all played so much together that we knew what other people were going to do. This year, we’re still getting used to how people play. We have to work a little harder to be aware of our surroundings. Last year, we just knew where everyone was going to be.”

Though she was a captain last year, she was able to defer to a strong senior class. This year, she plays a larger role in leading the team and working with the younger players. Being a captain last season enabled her to learn what being a leader was all about.

“Just watching the other girls and seeing how they communicate with everyone else and how they led, it helped me,” she said. “I knew what I had to do this year.”

Though the team is very different, it is shaping up to be an exciting season for the Roadrunners. Rolbiecki is optimistic about her club’s potential and is thrilled already to see the progress the team has made.

“In preseason, when we were doing skills stuff and teaching the young girls how to play in high school, they didn’t really understand it,” said Rolbiecki. “Now that they’re getting the flow of it, it’s definitely starting to go smoothly and it’s exciting.”

With Rolbiecki in the midfield with fellow senior Mikayla Burbank, the Roadrunners have quite the tandem in the middle to take charge and make things happen on the field.

“They’re tough,” said Keller. “They’ve very strong. They’re aggressive and they’re on the ball. They win it most of the time. Soccer games are won and lost in the midfield.”

It also puts Rolbiecki a little closer to the net. Her only goal in high school came off a direct kick last year.  In her first game in the midfield Monday, she scored a goal against the Ramblers.

“I’m excited about that part,” she says. “That was the first one I’ve scored in a long time off a live ball. That was exciting.”

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