Adairsville midfielder Katie Lawhorn fired off a roughly 35-yard free kick in a Sweet 16 game against Jackson last May. The ball flew by the hapless keeper into the corner of the net, and, as assistant coach Lance Hall described, “You could see the smoke coming off the ball as it went in.”
According to Hall, Lawhorn’s goal “sucked the wind” out of Jackson. The Lady Tigers went on to win the game by a score of 7-1, taking Adairsville to the state quarterfinals, an unprecedented position for the girls soccer program.
It was that big leg, along with a high skill level and impressive soccer acumen, that drew the attention of college coaches to Lawhorn.
On Monday, the Adairsville senior took advantage of her talent by signing a soccer scholarship to Life University in front of family, friends and coaches at Adairsville High.
“Soccer is my love. I just find that it’s a complex sport. ... I can school people with my moves or I can find new ways to better myself each time,” Lawhorn said of signing. “I always thought it would be cool to play college soccer. That way, I can not only pursue academics, but I can further my soccer career. And it’s a good way to pay for college too.”
Lawhorn, who is one of the top students in her class, chose Life over the Cumberlands, Anderson University, The Citadel and Covenant College.
Life head coach Sam Clark is well-acquainted with the Lady Tiger. She was Lawhorn’s club soccer coach before taking the Life coaching position in the first year of the Marietta NAIA program’s existence in 2015.
“Their soccer program is a new program, so I thought it would be good to start somewhere that’s brand new and build there,” Lawhorn said of her college decision. “It’s a great biology and science program there. Not only was she my former coach, but they’re a really open school. They accept all types of students.”
Another bonus to choosing to play for Life is Lawhorn will already have a friend once she steps on campus, as 2016 Adairsville High graduate and fellow state quarterfinalist Haley Pittman is currently a freshman for the Running Eagles.
“That’s really cool,” Lawhorn said. “Me and Haley are pretty good friends, so it’ll be nice to play together again.”
Pittman and Lawhorn were both key in igniting the girls soccer program. The Lady Tigers won an average of less than 10 games in the three seasons prior to Lawhorn’s freshman year, and have since averaged 17 wins a year with two region championships.
Although she has another season to go, Lawhorn is already fourth on the school’s all-time assist leaderboard with 22 and 10th in all-time goals with 34. She had 11 goals and six assists her junior year as the team’s center midfielder.
“She’s really a complete soccer player. That’s why she’s going to be successful in college,” Adairsville head coach David Sexauer said of Lawhorn. “She has a really good grasp of how the game is played. She knows how to work with teammates. She knows when to cross balls, when to pass. She has good pace on passes, she knows when to finesse the ball. She’s just an all-around player. That’s why she’s been recognized and recruited to play for a college team.”
While Lawhorn possesses a well-rounded game, it is her strong leg that allowed her score the goal against Jackson in the Sweet 16 and will continue to be an effective weapon for the Lady Tigers this year. Lawhorn took both free and corner kicks last year.
“Her long, deep kicks are what really separates her from most of her teammates. She can fire balls off from midfield on set plays,” Sexauer said. “She’s one of the few girls that really has that skill, and we take advantage of that with crossing balls and taking really long shots.”
Lawhorn has contributed on Adairsville’s cross country, track, volleyball and swim teams in the past, but she is now focused on soccer and helping her Adairsville team go even deeper into the state playoffs.
“We lost a lot of seniors, but we’re still going to do really well,” Lawhorn said of the upcoming season. “I’m excited because we have a lot of different players, so we can do new things on the field.”
She also is hoping for another moment like that Sweet 16 victory last May.
“It was a moment of joy,” Lawhorn said. “We hadn’t made it that far and it’s just cool to see your team come together, celebrate and win together.”