This past season, a trio of sisters helped the Conway girls soccer team to the state championship.
Unfortunately for them, the state championship went into Bryant’s hands as the Lady Hornets bested Conway 2-1 in the final for the first time in three contests.
That was the only year those homeschooled three sisters got the chance to play with each other as Gifte Pavatt will be too old to play after coming from Ethiopia when she was younger and Kailyn, or KK as she is commonly known, will forego her senior season to head to FC Dallas’ Development Academy, leaving Tristyn as the lone Pavatt on the varsity team.
KK has an astounding season where she recorded 31 goals and 12 assists, which led her to receiving many honors, such as the Arkansas Girls Soccer Gatorade Player of the Year, Wendy’s Arkansas Activities Association Player of the Year, all-state, all-conference and an All-Arkansas Preps First-Team selection.
These sisters, as well as the other siblings — seven children total — grew up on a ball field, according to mom Krista.
She said that when her two children from Ethiopia came when they were 9 and 10 years old, they didn’t really speak English and the best way to communicate with the other children was to kick a soccer ball around.
“It’s the coolest way God gave them to bond with one another,” Krista said.
Because they grew up on soccer fields, it has allowed for Gifte a chance to play at John Brown University and KK to play for Mississippi State and possibly a chance at professional leagues or even the US Women’s National Soccer Team and Tristyn will play her sophomore year for Conway.
“I want to play professionally,” KK said. “The NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) draft is in January so college is set up for me to graduate a semester early so I could potentially be in the draft.”
KK may have to wait a while to get that chance, but in the meantime, she has verbally committed to in Starkville, Mississippi, for Mississippi State.
Though receiving offers from North Texas, Florida State, Central Arkansas, Southern Methodist, Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma State as well as talking with North Carolina and Arkansas, KK decided to go to Mississippi State.
“I’m a very small town girl,” she said. “I don’t like big cities at all. We live in an open area here with a lot of space and freedom. Mississippi State is filled with old brick buildings, lots of open spaces. Downtown is very old.
“The town is there for the college. There are people that went to Mississippi State that stayed in Starkville so they could be around Mississippi State. Their biggest focus in athletics is family. A lot of people say that but don’t follow through on that, but there are walls and weight racks that say ‘family.’ It’s a very family-oriented atmosphere.”
For KK, soccer seemed to come naturally.
She began playing soccer at 3 years old with her older brothers and now plays multiple times a week with her siblings on the soccer field that is in their yard.
“From day one, we do everything together,” she said. “That’s how we bonded and how we still bond.”
Krista said KK has always been drawn to the goal.
“She wants the back of the net,” she said.
Soccer was so natural that her coach in a recreation league wanted her to use her non-dominant foot.
“Her coach when she was a kid, he wanted her to be very good with both feet,” Tristyn said. “It was a rec team that beat other teams 10-0, so he would tell her if she used her dominant foot, she would bench her.”
KK said she thought her coach was kidding.
Tristyn also said KK was placed in goal and dribbled her way up the field and score.
But, KK hasn’t always had a passion for soccer.
In fact, there was a time she didn’t want to play soccer.
“I played in Tulsa for a bit,” she said. “And, last spring was my first spring was my first with (Conway) coach (Kevin) D (DeStefano). Tulsa was super hard for me being a kid from four hours away that I didn’t really want to play soccer anymore.
“For as long as I could remember, I wanted to go to the national team. So, to go from that kid who literally had to be pulled off the field was really hard. If it weren’t for D and the team to make me want to play soccer again and take a broken me and reignite my fire for the game. The feeling of just being on the field and the competition, it was really something. Even the hard games were fun. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them. I was talking with my sister yesterday and I truly wouldn’t be here without them.”
Now, KK, with a dream of playing professionally has a chance to continue her at a prestige university.
And, she, Tristyn and Krista credit a lot of that to DeStefano, especially when the girls first started playing for him as homeschoolers.
“D never treated us differently,” she said. “We walked in there total strangers and knew no one. We were homeschooled and no one treated us any differently. It was like we were part of the family and they didn’t see us as different but as sisters.”
DeStefano ultimately helped KK get a chance to train in Dallas.
“When D gave her the opportunity to train DA in Dallas,” Krista said. “The DA coach didn’t want her to play, but she had already committed herself to coach D and the team and this was the only season that all three of them were going to get to play together. She said she had to do this season because it was important to her and her sisters.
“Arkansas is not known for awesome ball players. She grew up with rec coaches in Greenbrier that poured into them just like D has. These coaches love these kids well and love the game. They love the kids and love the game.”
Krista said KK stepping away from her senior year was a tough decision, but thinks it will ultimately be beneficial to KK.
As for DeStefano, he had great things to say of KK, too.
“KK was a big player in our program these past two seasons,” DeStefano said. “She is an impact player, an X-factor, who creates chances for herself and her teammates, and when she is playing at full capacity is nearly unstoppable. Her individual awards is a testament to our program and her teammates who helped her rediscover her love for the game. Coach Fason, our current assistant, Coach Larson, who was our assistant last year, and I are incredibly proud of what she has accomplished individually and with her teammates.”
As any parent would, Krista is happy about seeing her children achieve their dreams.
“When you watch a kids’ dream become a reality, it’s exciting to watch.”