Oct. 31, 2013
By Brock Lewandowski, MSU Athletic Communications Student Assistant
Over the course of the past year, she has been described over and over as the lone senior, but being the only one does not make defender Kelsey Mullen alone. In fact, she has only risen to that challenge.
"Being the only senior, it puts a lot on your plate so you have to step up," said Mullen. "I feel like I've just led by example and people followed. The hard work I put in during the summer for this year showed people that I was mentally in it."
"I think, first of all, she's not an outspoken person and I've been very pleased with how she's taken on a leadership role in her own way, having been the lone senior," said Saxton. "She's felt the responsibility of being a senior and captain and she's handled that with her own touch. She connects with people at all levels, all classes."
"Kelsey Mullen, from the moment she walks into a room or onto a field, has an inner confidence that is second to none in the entire program," said Farnum. "She applies that confidence, of course with her great soccer skills, but also how she handles new players, how she challenges her teammates respectfully, because she comes with that confidence. Of course, she's had success in her career and established that, but it's that inner confidence that she's in a class of her own."
However well she's handled it, being the only senior still required some adjustments.
"I've had to branch out a lot more this year because I didn't have anyone in my grade. I've become pretty close with a lot of the girls. The team this year is very close. I can honestly say they're all my sisters and I would do anything for them.
"We just joke around and laugh. Before every game, we listen to `Love on Top' by Beyoncé and everyone goes crazy."
The importance of love that Beyoncé sings about is something that Mullen brings in many different aspects of her life, from her family to her team. She has always stayed close with her family, choosing to go to Michigan State, just a few minutes outside of her hometown of Okemos.
"I knew it was important to me to have my family be able to come to a lot of my games and I grew up as a Spartan fan, so I knew it was a perfect fit for me," Mullen said. "You can make it as close or as far as you want to. It was nice during my freshman year, to have my laundry done or little perks like that. Sometimes you wonder if you should've gone farther, but I don't ever regret going here.
"I have a big family and I have stepsiblings. On my mom's side, there are seven of us. My family is everything. My siblings come and support me at every game. We're very close and it's awesome. It's great to have them around all the time."
Kelsey also attributes some of her growth as an athlete to her childhood memories with her family.
"I always had to be doing something, always had to be active. I couldn't sit still," Mullen said. "We were constantly playing games. Since I had three siblings, the four of us would play two on two soccer, four square, or video games. We were so competitive and I guess that's where I got my competitive nature."
Still, there's a time when a person must move on to new things, and her time at Michigan State has helped her to grow in other ways.
"I think I've become more focused in what I want in soccer, in school and in life," said Mullen. "I've definitely matured. I think, as a freshman, I was a little too wild and now I've settled down."
"She was very much a natural athlete coming out of high school," said Saxton. "She's understood that it's yearlong cycle to prepare to play college soccer at a high level. It took her a little bit out of high school, but she's embraced that and gotten herself prepared for a great senior year."
Mullen has a few memories that she'll take with her when it's time to go.
"There's one game that sticks out in mind against Indiana, the wind was insane and it seemed like any time you kicked the ball it would just go backwards," said Mullen. "We ended up scoring with one second left to go into overtime and won in overtime. It was just a great feeling to accomplish something like that."
Even though her time at MSU is coming to an end she still has one thing she'd like to do.
"This year, I want to score a goal."
Kelsey is a psychology major and plans on continuing her education in the hopes of working with children. Coach Saxton, however, isn't quite ready to see her go.
"A few adjectives come to mind, consistency and confidence," said Saxton. "She's a great teammate. She's a great leader this year. I was telling her, it'll such a weird feeling for me to circle the lineup and not circle her name after doing it four consecutive years. She's provided great stability to our back line."
Being a senior, she's had four years to learn what it means to be a Spartan.
"I love the atmosphere of the Spartan family," said Mullen. "Everyone here is just crazy and I love it. Everyone would stick up for each other. It's a dynamic. Between your own team, you're very close, but you're also close with every other sports team and that's a cool feeling."
She would want freshmen to take in the experience as well.
"Enjoy every minute of it, because I still feel like I should be a freshman and now I'm almost done," she said.
Kelsey still has at least one person she would like to thank for helping her grow through the program.
"I would say Tammy, as a coach, really helped me," Mullen said. "She was always there; you could always go to her. She really helped me and pushed me everyday to be the best player that I could be. She's not just a coach. She's a mother figure to look up to, to have there for you."
"It's very special. Kelsey and I, our relationship goes well beyond soccer coach and player because we have a respect for each other," said Farnum. "It's our Spartan family; we care about each other on and off the field. She's opened up other parts of her life and I have as well. There's a connection because of gained respect though triumphs and even more so trials. She's been there for me as much as I think I've been there for her."
Mullen wants people to remember her as someone that was always smiling and that kept everyone laughing, but Farnum argues her contribution to MSU goes well beyond that.
"I think the one thing Kelsey will have gained when her career is over is the acknowledgement of the impact she is going to be leaving on our program," Farnum said. "She has not only raised the bar, but she sometimes was the bar that people had to rise to. She's never been cocky about it. She's always just gone about her business.
"I think that Kelsey has realized now that she can make an impact in a lot of people's lives and she will continue to do so. It's neat to see her grow up and understand that how she goes about herself, that other people are going to take that on and live up to her expectations, because of the great role model that she was."