By Corbin McGuire
K-State soccer’s Caylee Thornhill is mad, but laughing, because her roommate and best friend, Shae Turner, just outed her as the “messy one.” Turner is mad, also laughing, because Thornhill just outed her in an impromptu game of knockout in Bramlage Coliseum.
“We’re not friends right now,” Turner yelled, unable to keep a serious face.
This moment from K-State soccer’s media day on August 8 offered a glimpse into a unique bond shared between the two Wildcat freshmen, whom head coach Mike Dibbini said already “play like vets.”
Thornhill and Turner, who described themselves as “giggly,” “goofy,” and “sarcastic,” give off a vibe that they played their whole lives together. At the very least, it seems as if they went to the same high school.
Neither are true.
Turner grew up on the Missouri side of Kansas City; Thornhill was raised in Lenexa. Turner went to Liberty High School; Thornhill attended St. James Academy. Their friendship originated before either started high school, when Thornhill switched club teams to Sporting Blue Valley, where Turner played.
“I feel like, right away, we kind of clicked,” Thornhill said.
During club season, the two were inseparable. They carpooled on long road trips to tournaments. They roomed together in hotels.
“We would just be together 24/7,” Thornhill said, as the two followed each other to KC Athletics, another club team. “After high school season or any time we were apart and got back together during the fall, we didn’t even miss a beat. It was just so organic for us.”
Their friendship never faded during the spring, when they played for their high schools. In at least one case, when Thornhill tore her ACL as a junior, it was strengthened.
“I think it was hard on Shae because we were best friends and I was out the entire year. She would always come visit me and text me, ‘I hate you for leaving me during club. That’s horrible of you,'” Thornhill said, laughing at their constant sarcasm. “But she would always text me and ask about my recovery and visit me and keep my head up during the whole process. She’d bring me food and then we’d watch TV. We’d just hang out, which I really liked because I didn’t get to see her all the time like I did at practice.”
The two closely followed each other’s high school results. They would usually text after every match. Both helped raised their high school programs, from being “not very good our freshman years,” Turner said, to state championship winners as seniors.
Thornhill, a First Team All-State selection, scored the game-winning goal in KSHSAA’s Class 5A state title game with less than a minute to play; Turner notched an assist in hers to cap a season in which she was named Missouri Soccer Coaches Association (MSCA) Class 4 State Player of the Year.
These experiences offered both Wildcats insight on what it takes to build a winning program.
“Seeing how my high school team changed from my freshman year to senior year was super awesome to see. The culture there, and I’ve seen it here, too, of how the players treat each other is so important to the team,” she said. “That’s such a huge thing for winning and success, there and also coming here, too.”
Coming to K-State, however, was not exactly a joint decision.
Really, Thornhill and Turner kept to themselves during the recruiting process. Both said they wanted to respect the other’s decision-making process and not place any unfair pressure to follow one another. That’s not to say human nature did not creep in.
When Turner committed to the Wildcats going into her sophomore year, she may have slipped in a few good words about K-State here and there.
“She had been looking at them all year, so I didn’t want to push her too much into it because, obviously, she’s my best friend, so I didn’t want to ruin it, but I also wanted her to come here,” Turner said. “I would kind of drop hints of how amazing K-State is.”
“We didn’t talk about it (much). When I got down to my top couple (schools), she was, like, ‘Obviously, I’d love for you to come to K-State, but all the schools you’re looking at are great options,'” Thornhill, who committed to K-State during the spring of her sophomore year, added. “It worked out really well, and it was perfect for us.”
How it worked out reinforced the authenticity of their friendship.
“I think it shows that we have the same values,” Turner said. “I think it just shows that we care about the same stuff, we have the same goals and we know where we want to be, and that’s why we chose here.”
Now, they live together and only occasionally argue about cleaning the dishes. They cook together and Thornhill makes sure they eat their vegetables. They watch TikTok videos together, which often leads to creating their own dances.
On the field, they play different roles out of the midfield. Turner acts as more of a holding midfielder, while Thornhill looks to make runs and attack with a left foot that Dibbini called “wicked,” seen in K-State’s exhibition win against Oral Roberts.
For Thornhill and Turner, it’s like club season, year-round. Only this time, it’s Division I soccer for a Big 12 program in its fourth season, which starts at Creighton on Friday and at Omaha on Sunday.
It’s the culmination of a goal they have shared since they joined club teams.
“We knew what we wanted in the end. We wanted to go play Division I,” Turner said. “We just had the same values, in the sense that we wanted to work hard to get it.”
Now, the pair is eager to put the same work in at K-State.
“I’m just ready for us to see it play out on the field and be able to make a name for ourselves for our fourth year out here,” Thornhill said. “I’m ready for us to be a threat to everybody and for no one to see us as the new school or the new program anymore.”
“I’m going to work my butt off, and I know everything’s earned, nothing’s given,” Turner added. “I’m just going to do the best for the team. Always team first, never myself.”
Source: Kansas State Sports