For most soccer players, the number on the back of their jersey is nothing more than a way to identify them on the field and tally team statistics.
But for freshman Kecia Lee, it’s a target — for expectations, pressure, and a family legacy.
As the younger sister of Minnesota soccer legend Nicole Lee, from whom Kecia inherited the ##2 jersey, Kecia joins the team just as her sister finished an impressive march through the Gopher record books last season.
After 86 games in maroon and gold, Nicole stands in third place for all-time career points, career goals, and season points. She is second for season goals and career assists.
She was also named to three all-Big Ten teams and was an All-American candidate.
And for sister Kecia, it would seem big shoes to fill and a lot of reminders of who her sister was.
But if you ask Kecia — who chose to wear the same number as Nicole because of a family tradition — she says it doesn’t matter.
“It’s not extra pressure, everyone asks me that,” Lee said. “Her accomplishments were awesome, and I look to her as I would any other great player.
“But I’m not worried about matching records or scores with her, I’m just doing the best I can.”
So far, the best she can do has been exactly what a struggling Gopher team needs.
After a three game losing streak, Lee pumped in two goals during a match against Ohio State, ending a streak of 352 scoreless game minutes for the Gophers.
The goals put Lee in second place — behind senior Laurie Seidl — in goals this season with a total of three.
Lee’s scoring punch and speed at forward have coach Barbara Wickstrand touting her as part of the reason for Minnesota’s mid-season turnaround.
“Kecia is one of our most explosive and dynamic forwards,” Wickstrand said. “She has great balance, a great shot, and once she learns more about the system and where the forwards are she’s going to be an unbelievable asset to the program.”
And while Kecia says hearing about the family connection brings some “tiresome moments,” it hasn’t done anything to hurt the bond between the two or their love for soccer.
After every home match Nicole can be seen telling Kecia what went well and what needs to be improved in her play.
For Kecia, it’s the most valuable feedback she gets.
“They are really close and Nicole gives her tips after games, which is fun to watch,” Wickstrand said. “But they are two totally different players: Nicole was more finesse and Kecia is more powerful, and she’s coming in to her own right now.”
Keicia will never mind comparisons to her sister as a player.
“She is such a great soccer player that I don’t mind being compared to her. It’s a huge compliment to be compared to her at all.”
Monica Wright covers soccer and welcomes comments at [email protected]