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CU Buffaloes Taylor Kornieck’s Ascent to Senior USWNT Is Nothing Less Than Awe-Inspiring

The go with the flow midfielder making a run at earning a spot on Team USA’s 23-player World Cup roster

Taylor Kornieck (right) talking with Alex Morgan before the USWNT match with Columbia on June 25, 2022 in DICK’S Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, Colorado.
John A. Babiak

For the record, Taylor Jacklyn Kornieck is not a native of Colorado. But you think she was.

Ever since she set foot on the University of Colorado’s women’s soccer field on the outskirts Boulder campus, the 6’1” attacking midfielder quickly earned the respect from the team’s spirited fans and coaching staff.

Today, her growing fandom extends coast-to-coast, if not beyond our borders.

It is led by the passionate USWNT supporters groups here in colorful Colorado, and all those in the Centennial State that have adopted her since she arrived as a freshman in 2016.

Her mission then was straightforward: make a mark on the Lady Buff’s soccer program and earn an undergraduate degree in physiology.

Her biography on the Buff’s Athletics Department website states that someday she wishes to launch a sports medicine business to rehabilitate athletes in order to help get them back to competitive play. Now that is an admirable All-American goal.

As life has it, our respective career paths often takes circuitous routes. Kornieck’s included.

Her entrepreneurial vision is currently on pause. She turned right and is now pursing a career in the North American Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), all while making a serious case to become a main stay with the United States Women’s National Soccer Team (USWNT).

Kornieck’s student-athlete half hit full stride when she was a scholar attending Henderson, Nevada’s Coronado High School. Not only did her academic marks earn her accolades and honors, so did her standout soccer play. The latter in caught the attention of several NCAA scouts, including those from Colorado.

While in Boulder she keep adding to her bio: “Kornieck put in an outstanding senior year for the Buffs, helping take them to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. She finished the year with a career-high 12 goals, six assists and she ranked seventh in the NCAA with 5.0 shots per game. She was a perfect 9-for-9 in PKs. In her third year, she set a school record with ten assists. Kornieck also became the first player in school history to surpass 100 career points.”

She left the program with her head high and 102 points on the record books. Kornieck played her last game for the Buffaloes on November 11, 2019. The team succumbed to second ranked North Carolina, 1-0 on the annual NCAA best-of-the- best tournament.

In September of 2020, she was selected by the NWSL Orlando Pride as their third overall draft pick. The pandemic struck and life changed quickly for Kornieck and many other players in the fledgling league.

She was loaned out to play with Germany’s MSV Duisburg Club. The challenging year overseas was a growing experience for her personally. She played in 11 matches, scored once and delivered one assist. She was also hungry for kinship and an opportunity to return stateside.

In 2021, the 22-year old rookie was traded to San Diego FC, and soon she was starting alongside USWNT great, Alex Morgan.

A year later, she began to find herself again, and won a trio of NWSL Best honors for her play for former USWNT head coach, now president of the San Diego Waves, Jill Ellis.

In 2022, she has scored four times and offered up three assists.

Kornieck played at the U-18 and U-20 levels. She was also identified as a natural leader and named captain of her U-18 squad during their 2016 season.

Between her youth national team performances and those with the Waves, senior USWNT head coach Vlatko Andonovski came recruiting when he invited her to join his team in a Colorado-based camp and friendly last summer.

Recently, she repeated the story of when the skipper called her into camp. It was June 7, 2022 when she received a text while driving that commenced with “Hi Taylor, this is Vlatko.”

The then 23-year old said that her “heart dropped.”

She pulled into the nearest Southern California filling station, Shell to be exact, and rang up the head coach.

Andonovski informed the down-right giddy rising star she would be on the USWNT that was gearing up to embark on playing in the Concacaf W Championship tournament and 2024 Summer Olympics’ qualifiers.

Kornieck says she was absolutely speechless. The invitation to join the team was a re-occurring dream that she has had since she was a child.

Fast forward to today, Kornieck has been on a journey with the senior national team. Sporting the number 20 on her back, she has made nine appearances and scored twice on picture-perfect headers set pieces.

Her first goal was in Denver’s DICK’s Sporting Goods Park when Megan Rapinoe served up a lovely punt that found the stotting Kornieck, who leaped up like a gazelle to greet the incoming ball.

Her second goal came in New Zealand against the Football Ferns last month.

Rose Lavelle delivered a made-for-the-highlight-reel corner kick into the box. Her missile found Kornieck who promptly headed the ball into the back-of-the-net.

While in Auckland, Andonovski continued his practice and play experiments with the invites to his camp. With just six months to go until the Women’s World Cup Tournament starts, the head coach is at the point where he is seriously tinkering with both his roster and line up.

Integrated chemistry is foremost on him mind. Second, who is actually available to play, on the mend or officially out.

With holding midfielder Julie Ertz still undecided about returning, a once in an early career opportunity has presented itself to Kornieck, a possible overture from the gaffer to make is 23-player World Cup roster as Ertz’s replacement.

Recently he has been test driving her in different location within the midfield, and partnering her up with a mix of veterans.

Could the attacking middy be deployed as a not so secret weapon as a deep midfielder in the down under Tournament? And also double dip and be moved-up into her familiar ready position during set pieces?

Considerable evidence exists that validate that she is in the running to make this summer’s traveling roster. She is eager to please, is all ears, hell-bent determined and going along with all of Andonvoski’s experiments.

“It is pretty different position. It is my first time playing there,” she said during last week’s press conference.

As for the tutelage she is receiving, it comes from both Andonovski, as well as Andi Sullivan. “I am learning from the best.” she said with a beaming smile.

Kornieck mused about her new assignment.

“The six position really an important position.”

Every fan knows that it comes with a lot of responsibilities and discipline, as it is right in from the backline. With her tendency to want to play forward and get into the box, she now has to execute self-control, hold back and help fortify the defensive unit.

“They also have the job of calling the line on set plays. It is pretty nerve racking. I am taking it day-by-day and feel that I am progress.”

As for her aerial acrobatics, the confident Kornieck perked-up and said that she prides herself on her abilities to stand tall and rise above her opponents. That could be to clear a ball on their set plays, or elbow in and become a towering target when the Yanks line up in an attempt to score.

“I work on it everyday and pride myself as being one of the best in the world on that.”

One of her biggest champions is Alex Moragn. After Kornieck scored her first goal during her debut in Colorado with the national team, Morgan said “I mean, so sick. She comes in, scores a goal, does what she needs to do. First cap dream, She just came in and bossed.”

Expect to see plenty of big-boss Kornieck during this week’s SheBelieves Cup, and soon again at another evaluation camp and round of pre-World Cup friendlies in the months ahead.

The folks at AO Denver and AO Colorado Springs should mail her their most color-filled swag, and properly welcome her to our family here in Colorado.