SE: After Long Wait, Larkin Leading K-State in Goal

For more than three years, Miranda Larkin went without playing in a match. She practiced and she trained, all without any guarantee of her hard work paying off. 

Larkin, now K-State’s starting goalkeeper, never viewed it that way, however. She approached each day as an opportunity to improve, a chance to prove her abilities and a challenge waiting to be met head on. 

“It was really just my competitive nature,” Larkin, a junior, said of what helped her through the three-year gap. “I wanted to show people what I could do, and I wanted to prove that I can play. Keeping that in mind, I came to work and I came to show what I could do. I’m happy that I finally get to.”

Larkin, an ESPN Top 150 recruit out of Rockwall, Texas, started her collegiate career at Oklahoma. After seeing action in only four matches in 2013 and being redshirted by the Sooners the following season, she decided to transfer. 

She checked out a number of schools, seeking a team in need of a goalkeeper. Suddenly, K-State “popped up” in her mind as a possibility. 

“I really liked the Big 12. I have a lot of friends in the Big 12 and I like the competition in the Big 12. So the opportunity to be in the Big 12 was attractive,” Larkin said. “When I came on my visit, met with the coaches and saw the vision of K-State soccer, that’s when I chose K-State.”

Larkin joined K-State in 2015 as the fourth signee in the program’s history. She did not come to the decision easily, however. 

“I was a little hesitant, to be honest. I was hesitant, but it was very attractive at the same time,” she said of joining a first-year program. “It was unique. That’s how I would describe it. It’s a unique situation and it’s also a challenge, so I looked at it as a challenge and ran with it.”

Her enjoyment of being a goalkeeper, which she began playing at around age 10, stems from the same area. 

“I really like the challenge,” she said of the position. “When you make a good save in the game, you think, ‘Wow. How did I just do that?’ Getting those moments and getting those saves is really what pushes you to get better, keep moving, keep practicing to make those saves the next time and the next time.”

Larkin said a few key traits make up a good goalkeeper, namely confidence and leadership. As a captain for K-State and one of the oldest players on the team, she possesses both.

“Obviously, she brings leadership and experience, which is vital for this young team,” K-State head coach Mike Dibbini said. “She shares her values and shares her experiences with the younger players. She’s been very, very important to this team.”

Larkin, also considered the “mom” of the team, said she views her ability to communicate on the field as a personal strength. 

“I really do like communicating. I think it’s something I’ve worked on,” she said. “The goalkeeper’s position is mostly communication. I think you can stop a lot of plays from happening ahead of time if you have your players in the right spot and help them get there. I think you really need to be a very good communicator to be a good goalkeeper.”

Goalkeepers must also be instinctive and skilled when the opponent does create offensive opportunities. Larkin has proven valuable in these situations all season. 

In nine starts, she has recorded 52 saves for an average of 5.78 saves per match, both of which would rank first in the Big 12. (K-State does not officially join the conference for soccer until 2017.) 

“She has pretty good hands. She knows how to cut down angles pretty well,” said Dibbini, whose team will play its final home match of the season against UMKC Friday at 7 p.m. “Most goalkeepers in the country are 5-10 or higher at this level. For her size, being 5-8, she can still get those balls in the air. She has made some big saves for us.”

Furthermore, Larkin ranks 18th in the country in save percentage (.881) and 44th in goals-against average (.724). 

“I think the most important thing is she’s kept us in a lot of games and sometimes it goes unnoticed,” Dibbini said, “but with her presence in the goal and ability to keep us in a lot of games, it gives the team confidence.”

Larkin posted a shutout in her first start, K-State’s 0-0 draw at SIUE, which was her first match action since Nov. 1, 2013. Since then, she’s blanked three teams to rank 36th in the country in total shutouts with four.

“Once I got used to playing games, I’ve been able to build my confidence in every game that we’ve played,” she said. “Getting minutes lets you get used to your team, you build a connection with your backline and even your midfield. Talking to them, you build a trust. They trust me and I trust them. Seeing that build every game, it really improves what we can do on the field to keep the ball out of the goal.”