Viewer to Victor: The story of X-Factor Kim Quiles

Vin Gallo
@VinGallo731

Monique Marcelino gathered the ball at midfield amongst the circling Coast Guard Academy defense. Locked in an early season tilt with the Bears, the Pride was in search of their sixth straight win to begin the 2017 campaign, a tally of 5-0 already marked as the best start in program history.

Up 1-0 with the clock ticking through the 17th minute of the game, Springfield was looking for an insurance goal. Marcelino scanned the field and found one of her forward teammates slowly creeping along the touch line, a Coast Guard defender standing idly by her side. As soon as Marcelino booted the ball towards the sideline, her teammate sprinted by her defender with an explosive first step, and took off towards the Bears’ goal area.

As she raced through the 87 degree humidity of mid-September, long dark hair flapping, and a dark gray headband already collecting a thin film of sweat, the forward did not break her gaze from the ball. At a full sprint, her legs move like coupling rods on a runaway locomotive, arms rapidly pumping in perfect sync. Just as she anticipated, the pass from Marcelino bounced to the left side of her, slightly behind her path of progression. With the ball at her feet, the forward advanced pin straight at Coast Guard goalkeeper Rachel Boohar.

On a run, the forward put all of her 4’11 frame into a strike that traveled to the right of Boohar, but the Coast Guard keeper was able to knock the ball away with her fingers. With speed already built up, the forward leaped over the diving Boohar and slid safely along the turf. She quickly popped up and slowly jogged back towards midfield. This time, the opposition survived the often fatal fast break attack by senior Kim Quiles. But it’s certain that it is only a matter of time before she finds another opening and tries again.

Quiles’ ability to create a scoring opportunity in the open field has always been her signature attribute. It was what caught an initially hesitant women’s soccer head coach, John Gibson’s, eye back in 2014, when reviewing the tapes of Quiles’ play with the Indians of Roy C. Ketcham High School.

“The clips that were sent were not spectacular,” Gibson said. “They were alright. [But] there were a couple of runs that she went on where she looked really good.”

The amount of video was limited, and the senior only stood at her opponent’s upper torso. But garbed in her high school’s uniform, it was clear that Quiles was a red blur, who no one could catch when given an opening along the touch line.

Although tentative at first, the offensive potential was too great for Gibson to pass up.

“When you first look at her you see that she’s tiny, but she’s so powerful – a major force,” he said. “She’s fast, strong, and shoots the ball really hard.”

The Pride’s faith in Quiles has been rewarded. The forward scored 11 goals in her first two seasons as a member of Springfield’s second unit. After starting 22 games as a junior, and amid the Pride’s historic 2017 start, Quiles has begun her final season by tallying five goals, 10 points, and a career high .217 shooting percentage.

“I always look to play like how she plays, because she always gives it her all,” said sophomore forward Mackenzie Luiz. “It just seems like she has an endless amount of energy out there. She’ll never give up on a play. I learned what hard work ethic is from Kimmy, she’s determined to win every single ball.”

There is more to the importance of Quiles than her speed and goal scoring ability. Her intensity for soccer is something she makes sure rubs off on her teammates, as well as her willingness do anything to hype the team up before a game.

“She always has the aux cord in the locker room,” said senior midfielder Dakota Kelly. “She’ll put on music to get us pumped up.”

Quiles doesn’t want to take anything for granted, and is looking to lead her team to its third NEWMAC championship in three seasons.

    “Four years go by very quickly,” said Quiles. “I just make sure I work my ass off, not only for me, but for my teammates. I want to keep working really hard and play every game like it’s my last.”

    Growing up just off the east side of the Hudson River, in the suburban town of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., a five year old Quiles would spend summer evenings outdoors partaking in any sport possible. Each night, she would return inside, soccer ball in hand, skin dotted with mosquito bites and brushed with dirt and mud, after hours of playing with her sister Jessica (now Jessica Aufiero-Smith) and middle school kids twice her size.

“She was always a little tomboy, always liked to play in the yard, always wanted to play with the bigger kids,” said Aufiero-Smith. “[When she was younger] she’d kick her ball into the woods, go in to get it, and then would be blown up with poison ivy the next day.”

With Jessica as a sister, who was nine years older than her, the soccer field was very much Kim Quiles’ second home.

“Kim came back from the hospital during the week and that Sunday, we were traveling for one of my travel games, and Kim was there, in her stroller,” Aufiero-Smith said. “She literally grew up on a soccer field.”

It was only be a matter of time before Kim would be toddling along the sideline, booting a ball around at the age of 4. When Jessica and her teammates cleared the field for halftime, Kim would take the grass alone, and take aim at the net.

It was all a stage soon to be hers.

Year round, neighbors of the Quiles’ could bet on hearing Kim’s mother, Linda trying to corral her youngest child in for the night as twilight streaked the sky. If Kim was playing with her brother, Phil, there’d be a chance she’d come back. But if it was soccer with her friends, a stern, “Kimberly! Time for dinner!” was sure to echo more than once off the homes of the tightly knit community.

“I always wanted to be in sports clothes, always wanted to be doing some kind of activity,” said Quiles. “I never liked school when I was younger – I was always so into sports that I would almost put them as my first priority.”

When Quiles entered collegiate competition, she had been around the game of soccer for all 18 years of her life. Though the pressure put on incoming first year athletes can get the best of everyone.

“When I was doing my fitness test as a freshman, I was Jess Miller’s partner. It was my first fitness test at the college level, so I was pretty nervous,” Quiles said. “All my emotions were kind of all going crazy. She definitely calmed me down, and every single rep of the beep test or the 45, she was there pushing me. She was a big part of me making it through the fitness test and pre-season.”

Quiles would see the same scenario transpire when she was a junior, though this time as the seasoned veteran. Mackenzie Luiz, found herself in the daunting position of freshman vs. fitness test last summer and needed someone to turn to.

“I was so scared,” said Luiz. “I wasn’t sure I was going to pass. Luckily I was partnered up with Kimmy. As soon as we started to run that first set, I knew she was going to be my role model. She ran with me when she didn’t even need to. I look up to her like a big sister and I know she’ll always be there for me.”

Quiles wasn’t going to let her new teammate down.

“I did the same Jess [Miller] did for me with Mackenzie – I ran with her at the end of the 45s and I didn’t let her give up, just like Jess didn’t let me give up,” said Quiles. “I told her what Jess told me, ‘you’re here for a reason, you’re more than capable of passing this test.’ I remember running the last set with her, and I remember sprinting with her to beat that last rep. She got there just in time, and she was able to finish. I’ll never forget that.”

As Quiles’ senior campaign transitions to midseason, her priorities stay consistent. Pick up her teammates. Chase down that ball, no matter who’s in your way. Win. But until the final second expires on her soccer career, she will also look to lay it out all on the line for her family.

This past summer, Quiles returned to her old stomping grounds, Roy C. Ketchem’s soccer field. But that was nothing new. For Quiles, this was routine. The field, now turf, has always been her offseason training grounds, a place she visits every day when home. Though this time, she’s brought a visitor. For the first time in 11 years, Jessica Aufiero-Smith returned to the field, the field where her career voluntarily ended following her high school graduation.

“[My sister] was always a role model to me, she was always someone I’d look up to,” Quiles said. “She’s always been at my soccer games. She didn’t continue her soccer career at the college level like I did, but I’d say [her career] lives [on the field] through me in that sense.”

As she dished out passes to her cutting younger sister, who was stinging shots at will, Aufiero-Smith reminisced when Kim was still only nearly a child, waddling around and rolling a ball at low speed into the goal.

“She’s got a lot of personality for a little person. She’s always looking to get herself motivated – that could be through music or running or watching a repeat of a game,” said Aufiero-Smith. “Even though she’s good at the sport she’s always worked to make herself better. If she puts her mind to something, she’s going to do it.”

The clock hit triple zero, and another victory was in the books. Final: Coast Guard 0, Springfield 5.

6-0 – another win to pad the all-time record. Gibson led his team to the shade to escape the sun that was baking Brock Affleck field on that steamy afternoon. As the players jogged towards the sidelines, Quiles’ family applauded from the other side of the fence. Kim’s parents were there with her niece, and Jessica’s four month old daughter Madison. Quiles quickly hurries over to greet her niece, just like her sister would run over to her after her travel games all those years ago. Just like her aunt, Madison is already growing up with the sport her family loves. The cycle is beginning all over again.

“I’ve been telling [Jessica] before [Madison] was born, I’ve been telling her now, that I can’t wait to get her into soccer and be her mentor. Not just as her aunt, but as a soccer coach as well,” Quiles said. “I even tell that to Madison, even though she can’t understand me yet. I’m ready for her to be my little athlete.”

 

 

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