Oct. 22, 2003
University of Kentucky seniors Chris Austin, Steven McLay, Brook Pearse and Craig Pykett have all made an impact on UK's soccer program in one way or another. UKAthletics.com salutes the senior class with a profile on each senior leading up to Friday's "Senior Night" match against Buffalo at 7:30 p.m. at the UK Soccer Complex.
Today's profile features Steven McLay, a defensive back for the Wildcats. McLay is a transfer from Virginia Intermont College in Bristol, Va., who is in his first season with UK. The Bristol, England native received first team All-Appalachian Athletic Conference honors his last season at Virginia Intermont, before joining the Cats for his final year of collegiate eligibility.
How has your experience been playing at the University of Kentucky?
"For me, it's a great experience. I wanted to be a part of a Division I NCAA program every since I came over to America. I didn't think the opportunity would come because I only had a year of eligibility left and finally Coach Collins got in touch with me and said he would work with me for a year. I'm just really happy for the opportunity and I've enjoyed it a lot.
It's a great professional atmosphere and it's great to be a part of such a big program."
How is playing for Coach Collins?
"It is a relief for me to play for a coach who has the same drive to win that I have. I've had previous coaches who didn't care as much about wins and losses. Coach Collins' passion to win rubs off on the team and we all have a great drive to win. I really enjoy his coaching."
What is your assessment of the season to this point?
"I'm delighted with the progress at the moment. A couple of games could have gone either way that we lost and that's disappointing. I think at the start of the season we were all tense and wondered how the year was going to go. We have a lot of expectations of us as a group and I think we've all bonded well and are starting to deliver on those expectations.
We have to take it one game at a time and hopefully keep pushing towards the NCAA tournament at the end of November. I think we are on track at the moment, but it's important that we keep winning and not let up now that we've made a good start."
Have you enjoyed playing with other International players on UK's team?
"Coming over here has given me a chance to meet people from all over the world and experience their ways of playing soccer. It has helped me grow as a player."
Had you heard much about Kentucky before you came to America?
"Not at all really, it was all new to me. Once I got over here I realized that the likes of Kentucky ranks in the top tier of colleges in the nation and I wanted to be a part of a program like that."
Do the horse farms remind you of home?
"Actually they do. Going to Keenland reminds me of races back home. The events are similar and there are a lot of Irish and English jockeys and people that work around the stables. Around Lexington there are a lot of English or U.K. people so it's good to meet them and be reminded of home."
What are your plans for after this season?
"I'm not sure at this point. We are having a good season at the moment and if we keep playing well, hopefully there may be options to play at the professional level after college. With the degree I'll receive there may be opportunities for me in the marketing field or business related."
What is the biggest difference you've noticed between the United States and England?
"I'd say the passion for the University as a whole, which rubs off on the sports. Here, the community is centered around the University, but back home in England, the universities are only used for educational purposes and professional clubs are what people follow more closely.
It's great to play at UK and feel like the entire state of Kentucky is behind you. There is a lot of pride in the states. We have national pride in England, but I think they support the athletes in America a lot more at all levels."
Is it tough to balance academics and athletics?
"It is a lot harder this semester. I came in the spring and we only had a few games and practices so that was a lot easier. I've had to adjust my schedule to keep up with academics and athletics, but that's what you expect coming in. There are so many games in a short period of time.
As a student-athlete, you have to balance it and work hard at both. I enjoy playing and its what I've taken on so I'm happy to do it.
My family has been a great support to me and I talk to them two or three times a week. I miss them, but we keep in touch. They are always interested in my progress on and off the field."
What advice would you give an incoming student-athlete
"I would advise them to take a heavier load in the spring. You aren't going to have as much time in the fall because of the demands of you playing. I would recommend them to make good use of CATS. The people there have been great to me. Just make sure you go to class and stay on top of things."
What is your favorite thing about college in general?
"It's a good life to live. You don't have the big pressures of mortgages, bills and working everyday. It's more laid back and I enjoy the social life here at the University of Kentucky."