All-time scoring leader title still sinking in for UK’s Rhodes

Published 2:00 am Friday, October 20, 2023

By LARRY VAUGHT

Contributing columnist

Knowing the words “all-time leading scorer” will likely be in front of her name for a long time when anyone writes/talks about Kentucky women’s soccer still has “not sunk in yet” for senior Jordyn Rhodes.

“Honestly, I am still trying to soak it all in,” she said. “I can’t focus on that because our team is doing well and I love that. It definitely makes it more enjoyable with what I have done because the team has been more successful and there’s not a big focus on my success.”

Rhodes became UK’s all-time leading goals scorer recently with two goals in a win over then No. 9 Alabama — UK’s first win over a top-10 team since 2014 — that earned her SEC Offensive Player of the Week honors. That gave her 45 goals, one more than Kim LaBelle had during her UK career that ended in 1997.

Rhodes, a fifth-year senior, isn’t sure why she is such a prolific goal scorer.

“I obviously put in a lot of work to get here. I find myself in good positions and I am able to finish thankfully,” Rhodes, who has a SEC-leading five game-winning goals this year, said. “I have not always been able to do that. I had to practice a lot and develop my game.”

The Lebanon, Ohio, native intended to be playing at Indiana, not Kentucky before a coaching change brought her to UK.

“I was committed to Indiana. There was a coaching change and I knew it was not going to work out,” she said. “The former coach (Ian Carry) at Kentucky reached out to me and offered me a spot on the team and I took it. All that happened really quickly. I had committed to Indiana my sophomore year and then all this happened my senior year in about a two-week period.”

She had been part of an under-17 national championship team out of Cincinnati in 2017 but Kentucky never recruited her until after her decommitment from Indiana.

“It was kind of weird the way it happened,” Rhodes admitted.

Lebanon is only about 2½ hours from Lexington but she did not grow up a UK fan. Her family was more into the Cincinnati Bengals and Cincinnati Reds than college sports.

“But I have converted a lot of people there to UK fans now and there already were a lot of Kentucky fans from where I am from,” she said. “I have always had a great support system with family and friends and that has not changed. They are proud of me and proud of our team.”

Rhodes has been at Kentucky along with some of the all-time best female athletes at UK — Rhyne Howard was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 WNBA Draft, Madison Lilley was named the nation’s most outstanding player when UK volleyball won the 2020 national championship, Abby Steiner was named the 2022 most outstanding track & field athlete, Kayla Kowalik became softball’s all-time hits leader and Jensen Castle won the USA Women’s Amateur.

“It’s been very crazy. All those girls are incredible athletes,” Rhodes said. “I have had the privilege to meet a few of them and consider them good friends. It’s an honor to be recognized with them for sure.”

The women’s team resurgence has created more fan and media attention this season. Kentucky is 8-0-5 overall and 2-0-4 in Southeastern Conference play after a 2-0 win over Vanderbilt Sunday. Rhodes did not score but added her third assist of the season to go with nine goals.

Basketball coach John Calipari has even attended matches and praised the team on social media this season. Former Calipari assistant Rod Strickland’s daughter, Tanner, is a freshman midfielder on the team and has started every match.

“The fans have been incredible and that makes it so much more enjoyable for us whether fans know it or not,” Rhodes, who has scored at least six goals in each of her five seasons, said. “Calipari has definitely helped with the crowd. Everyone is trying to find John in the stands but we are good with that.”

Rhodes is working on a Master’s in health promotion after already earning her Kinesiology degree but has no idea about her career path after her UK soccer career ends.

“I am just trying to focus on this season,” Rhodes said. “I will cross that bridge (about her future) when I get to it but right now I am just enjoying what we are doing.”

Jordyn Rhodes has had a lot to celebrate as she is now UK’s all-time leading scorer and also the top scorer in the SEC this season. UK Athletics photo