Athlete Spotlight: Katie O’Laughlin

“Bring it in ladies!” UC San Diego senior forward and captain, Katie O’Laughlin calls out to the women’s soccer team which finished the 2017 regular season 13–2–2 overall and an undefeated 10–0–1 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association. A Carlsbad native, O’Laughlin began playing soccer at age four and heavily pursued the college recruiting process between her sophomore and junior years of high school. O’Laughlin bounced around between club teams, finally settling down with LA Galaxy San Diego, a team she grew to love coached by a college coach who saw potential in the 5’8” attacker.

Potential, to say the very least. O’Laughlin made an impact for the Tritons from the get-go, appearing in 14 games as a freshman, in which she started the last 10. As a sophomore in 2015, she received Division 2 Conference Commissions Association  All-West Region Second Team, National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-West Region Second Team and All-CCAA First Team to list just a few. However, the awards do not stop there. In 2016, O’Laughlin achieved an NSCAA All-American First Team selection, D2CCA West-Region Player of the Year, and CCAA Offensive Player of the Year. This year, O’Laughlin is tied for a team-high of six goals, on top of her three assists.

Aside from the hardware, O’Laughlin has developed on the field, not only physically but mentally as well, since her rookie season. “I started my freshmen year and was super nervous. I played really hard and worked really hard but I didn’t enjoy the game since I was so involved in playing well. These last few years I have come to appreciate [it] a lot more and have a lot more fun with [it].”

Balancing school, athletics, and a social life can be challenging for it was far from anything easy, O’laughlin had explained. Prioritizing both sleep and school were strategies she used to help her be so successful in multiple aspects. “I currently have two jobs, soccer and school, and I’m so overwhelmed but taking naps and prioritizing yourself over outside things is definitely the way to go,” O’Laughlin said.

O’Laughlin had always wanted to go away for college but after attending a soccer camp amid her college pursuit, she fell in love with UCSD. Beyond the unbeatable location of La Jolla, “it’s an amazing academic school and Brian [McManus, head coach] has a lot to give as he has been here for 31 years.”

Although a tough decision for the star, the most memorable moment of O’Laughlin’s career came during her junior campaign. The season started off with a trip to Seattle which sparked lots of team unity. “Going 12–0 in season, winning conference, and winning in the [CCAA] Tournament was amazing. I took away how much support we had from the student-athletes … and it became something bigger than us. It was really cool,” she said.

With her four years as a student-athlete coming to an end, a heartbreaking moment for many who have devoted a majority of their young lives to a certain sport, O’Laughlin expresses how much she will miss the team and seeing her friends every single day. The daily grind is no joke when practice starts at 7:15 a.m., but “when you are with your friends, it makes life a lot better,” O’Laughlin said. “I will definitely miss soccer, I won’t miss running or sprinting, but being on a team and having that regular social aspect.”

Not to mention, O’Laughlin also serves as the Vice President for Triton Athletes’ Council. TAC is an assembly of fellow student-athlete, representatives from each intercollegiate team at UCSD who meet twice a month to converse about ways to better enhance the relationships between other campus organizations, fundraising opportunities, ways to give back to the community and so-on.

O’Laughlin is currently finishing up her Bachelor’s degree in general biology within Eleanor Roosevelt College. In her free time, she interns at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration where she researches the sea turtles in San Diego Bay. With hopes of using those connections, O’Laughlin plans on further engaging in marine biology after UCSD. At the same time, she is excited for a change. “I have lived in San Diego my whole life and I want to try something new. Ideally, I want to go up north to Washington or Alaska.” Having lived in the warm California sun from a young age, the weather could be a potential factor as the beautiful, 72-degree San Diego days are not so promising.