By Scott French
Jill Kinter grew up within Aztec Soccer, even played a season for one of its Women's Premier Soccer League sides when she was in high school, but top-level summer competition wasn't really on her to-do list during her first three years at Colgate University.
That changed this year, and she and Aztec have been rewarded for it.
Kinter has been a pivotal figure for Aztec MA, which marched through the tough Northeast Atlantic Conference to claim a spot at this weekend's WPSL final four in Pensacola, Fla., the third straight trip to championship weekend by a team from the suburban Boston club.
She's scored a half-dozen goals, combined with Penn State's Maddy Evans and Northeastern's Greta Samuelsdottir to forge one of the WPSL's most explosive attacks, and provided strong leadership for a team that is 9-1-1 and carries a six-game winning streak into Saturday's semifinal against Oklahoma FC.
“It's been a great season, I'd say,” Kinter said. “I'm having an awesome summer with so many talented goals, getting to know them as players. It's been a great season so far, and hopefully we keep it going this weekend.”
It's exceeded expectations for the forward from Newburyport, in northeast Massachusetts, who spent the past three summers playing for “smaller” teams under the Aztec umbrella, mostly to keep in form before heading off for Colgate. With her senior season looming, and after winning the Patriot League's Offensive Player of the Year award last fall, she was persuaded by Dushawne (Doc) Simpson, Aztec MA's head coach, to take a step forward.
“I've been in contact with Doc for awhile, and I've known him forever,” said Kinter, who was 12 when she joined Aztec Soccer. “We talked over the winter and “decided this would probably be the best thing for me.”
The realization that she might have a future in soccer spurred the move, and she's certainly lived up to billing.
“I think [the less-competitive team] was really good preparation for me -- I focused on my college season the last three years,” Kinter said. “Now that I'm going into my last college year, I'm looking at the bigger picture. This team was really a great opportunity for me.”
Simpson says the lower-level teams are fine “for a lot of kids, because they go pretty heavy during the year. I think Jill recognized that if you want to continue to improve, you need to play against the best players possible. I think she's pretty serious about trying to play at the next level.”
Kinter has been a leader since he first sessions with the team a pivotal figure in the three-pronged attack, teaming with Evans, who will miss the final four, and Samuelsdottir for 19 goals and six assists.
“It's been so great playing with those two,” Kinter said. “It's fun starting a season not knowing who you're playing with and having so much success without really spending that much time with these players. They'll make an amazing pass, and I just to tap it in. I've tapped it in a lot of times this season. Those two have made me look good so many times.”
Said Simpson: “We play with three up top, and one thing we stress in the position is being interchangeable. They've been able to work well with each other, work off each other. They understand that if they make the right runs, teammates will find them.”
Kinter says she's an unorthodox attacker, “not a natural ... not your typical soccer player, I don't think,” but she has all the tools required to succeed, according to her coach.
“She's been doing this a long time,” Simpson said. “She's extremely athletic, she works so hard in every practice, in every game, and she has a nose for the goal. Give her an opportunity, and it's in the back of the net. ... Always in the right place at the right time with a nose for the goal.”