SE: Goth Gearing Up for Bigger Role for K-State WBB

The foundation of Kayla Goth’s athletic success contains two main pieces — focus and mental toughness. Both were developed early in Goth’s life and helped build her into a standout athlete who holds an important set of intangibles, all of which have the K-State women’s basketball team believing she will be an integral part of its 2016-17 season. 

“She’s improved her game so much,” senior guard Kelly Thomson said of Goth. “Her work ethic, her defense and just everything that she does is going to be a big, big part of our success this season. I don’t think this team would be the same without her on the floor.”

“She’s kind of like the quiet storm,” added assistant coach Jacie Hoyt. “She’s always going to do her part and do everything that it takes to help our team win. At the end of big games, I can see her making big plays, helping us get those big stops. I think that a lot of people are going to be really focused on Bre Lewis and Kindred (Wesemann), and Kayla’s going to be that kind of surprise that really shocks some people on the stat sheet.” 

If not for a father-daughter experience growing up, Goth’s story may read much differently.  

When the sophomore was nine years old, she tagged along with her father, Herman Goth, for a Tae Kwon Do class. Hesitant at first, Goth eventually became engrained in the sport. Before long, she was going to the studio four times a week for at least an hour. 

“It was a good discipline for me,” said Goth, who received her first-degree black belt after about five years of work. To earn it, Goth went through a five-and-a-half hour test of what she described as “sheer physical activity,” an experience that set the tone for her athletic career. 

“I really can relate it back to when we have those longer practices and we have those tougher games, where they’re going into overtime or you’re just exhausted and you have to figure out how to get through it mentally,” she said, listing her focus as another benefitted area. “Distraction can be a big thing in college athletics, so it just helps making sure that you’re focused at all times when you step on the court and in the classroom.”

A few years after earning her black belt, Goth was a three-sport standout at DeForest High School in Wisconsin. During her senior year, she signed with K-State in the fall and had her DeForest basketball team holding an unbeaten record late in the regular season before she was thrown another test — albeit a more unexpected one. 

Less than two weeks before the playoffs, where DeForest looked for a return trip to the WIAA Division 2 state title game, Goth suffered a torn ACL that ended her high school career. To get through the disappointment and begin preparing for her comeback at K-State, DeForest’s all-time leading scorer leaned on her lessons from Tae Kwon Do. 

“My instructor is someone who I actually stayed in contact with a lot, because it was easy to relate back to,” said Goth, who was medically cleared by October of last year and earned K-State’s 2016 1st Infantry Division Sustainment Brigade Tammie Romstad Durable Award. “Before my injury, it helped a lot with my balance and footwork. I lost a lot of that with my injury, so I’m still getting back to that, but I would definitely say the persistence and the perseverance that it took weekly to achieve that black belt is something that I really go back to being a college athlete.” 

When she arrived in Manhattan, Goth said Thomson, a senior who’s suffered two ACL tears while at K-State, was another helpful resource. The way Thomson tells it, however, Goth didn’t need too much help. 

“Kayla came in super motivated from the get-go,” said Thomson, whose biggest role was giving Goth perspective during the recovery process. “She had a great, great mindset and work ethic coming into it, so there wasn’t a whole lot for me that I had to do other than basically keep her positive and keep her pushing forward.”

Forward she went.  

As a freshman, Goth became more comfortable and confident — with her knee, her team and Division I basketball — as the season progressed. She scored 33 of her 56 points last season in Big 12 play, capping her first season with 13 points, six rebounds and five assists in three postseason games. 

“Kayla Goth is a player I don’t think people saw a year ago, athletically. She was coming off the knee injury and she played well down the stretch,” said K-State head coach Jeff Mittie, who added that Goth led K-State’s guards in scoring in the team’s first three scrimmages this fall. “That’s a big step up for her.”

“The kid is so, so, so determined to be really good in all aspects of the game. She fills the stat sheet,” Thomson added. “She just has all of the intangibles and she works so hard in practice. She has just an all-around great work ethic, and I think that’s one of the biggest things in her comeback and why she was so successful coming back so soon.”

Goth expects to bring even more to the table this season for K-State, which hosts Washburn in its first exhibition on Friday at 5:30 p.m.

“I definitely want to bring energy, which is something I brought a lot of last year, but I need to stay consistent with this year,” she said. “I need to be more aggressive scoring and be more of a threat there, as well as just bringing some confidence to the floor.”

Specifically, Goth focused on her agility and her scoring ability outside of 15 feet during the offseason. Her improvements haven’t gone unnoticed on the team, which expect opponents to see a different player this season. 

“She’s kind of a perfectionist and she’s competitive, so she really pushes herself. She’s been fun to watch progress,” Hoyt said. “She’s really changed that mentality from being a freshman who was coming off a knee injury to all of a sudden somebody who’s going to play quality, quality minutes for us and really help us in those big games against a really tough schedule.”