By Mason Nesbitt, TMU Sports Information Director
This year’s NAIA All-American roll call was a testament to perseverance.
The Master’s University’s Kellian Ahearn and Hailey Gomillion (pictured above) were both named honorable mention selections in women’s soccer this month, capping careers riddled with injury but full of production and leadership.
For Ahearn, the journey involved two ACL tears and only three full seasons, this last one her most accomplished.
The fifth-year senior midfielder posted career highs for goals (six) and assists (four) in 2018, helping the Mustangs reach the Golden State Athletic Conference tournament semifinals for the third straight year. It was Ahearn’s second consecutive healthy season after tearing her ACL before the 2015 and 2016 campaigns. After her second major knee injury (both to her right knee), she contemplated “hanging up the boots.”
“I didn’t even know if soccer was worth it to me anymore,” she said this week. “Obviously I loved the team and the school. But I didn’t know if it was worth it for my body to keep being injured.”
There was a large part of her, though, that wanted to play in honor of her father, Steve, who passed away shortly after she was cleared to return to the field in spring 2017.
“I remember him telling me when I was going through rehab, ‘I can’t wait to watch you play again. I can’t wait to watch you on the field,'” Ahearn said. “I remembered those times when he said that to me. That was a big motivation.”
In her return, Ahearn scored three goals and three assists over a career-high 22 games. The Mustangs made it to the second round of the NAIA national tournament for the third time in program history. “I’m really glad I didn’t quit,” Ahearn said.
So is coach Curtis Lewis.
“I think she really stepped it up in the Westmont game (Oct. 13, 2018),” Lewis said. “From then on, I don’t know if she lost any air balls. She was great in the air.”
Said Gomillion, “Kellian was really the glue for our team in the middle. We wouldn’t have had as good of a year without her there, just being the backbone for our team.”
Gomillion’s injury history isn’t as severe, but she showed considerable grit. The forward badly sprained her ankle at the end of her sophomore season in 2016, damaging a joint, but it wasn’t immediately clear she’d need surgery. By the time it was, the eight-month recovery would have cost her the 2017 season. She decided to delay the procedure until the following December and push through the pain.
“I love our team so much that I couldn’t stand the idea of not being on the field with them,” Gomillion said. “The fact I was able to play that year with the injury, then be back out there this year, I’m so thankful.”
She more than played – she excelled.
Gomillion posted what was then a career-high five goals and led the conference with eight assists in 2017 on her way to All-GSAC and honorable mention All-American honors. This year, she led the Mustangs in goals (nine) and points (23).
Her leadership will be missed.
“She was fantastic for us,” Lewis said. “A great team leader. Hailey and Lynnae (George) were excellent captains.”
Gomillion graduated with a degree in business administration this semester after earning her second straight GSAC and NAIA scholar-athlete awards. She plans to start work as a staff accountant in Claremont, California, early next year, with an eye on securing a certified public accountant license.
Ahearn has four classes remaining in TMU’s MBA program. From there, life is up in the air. But as Lewis said, that’s where she tends to be at her best.