By Rubin E. Grant
The past year has been something of a roller coaster ride for Vestavia Hills senior Kaylee Dressback.
It began last March when schools closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Alabama High School Athletic Association was forced to cancel the remainder of its spring sports seasons.
Dressback, a standout soccer player for the Rebels, was thoroughly disappointed. The Rebels were seeking their third consecutive Class 7A championship. They had gone undefeated in 2019 with a 23-0-0 record and were tabbed the No 1 team nationally in the USA Today and MaxPreps rankings.
The Rebels also had established a new state record with 29 consecutive wins. The streak reached 43 in a row when they began the 2020 season 14-0, before it was snapped in a 4-0 loss to Oak Mountain on March 12. It was the last game the Rebels played in 2020.
“I was devastated,” Dressback said about the season ending because of COVID. “I felt we had a chance to win state again. But we weren’t the only ones. Everybody was devastated because we wanted to get through the season.”
Back to the Court
When school resumed in the fall, Dressback the soccer player became Dressback the basketball player. She had played basketball in middle school at Pizitz but decided to give it up once she got to high school to concentrate solely on soccer.
But her best friend, Rebels senior forward Josie Edwards, persuaded Dressback to return to the court.
“I enjoyed playing basketball,” Dressback said. “I went to a ton of games last season to watch Josie and I saw how much I missed it. Josie convinced me to play again. The coaches found out I had played in middle school and were looking for another player for the team.”
Vestavia Hills girls basketball coach John David Smelser was glad to have the 5-foot-10 Dressback on the team.
“She comes off the bench and guards and rebounds. She helps us,” Smelser said during the season.
Dressback helped the Rebels reach the Class 7A Northeast Regional final, but they suffered a heartbreaking 48-46 loss to Hewitt-Trussville on a last-second shot, finishing with a 30-4 record, one win shy of reaching the Final Four.
“I was very disappointed the way the season ended,” Dressback said. “We faced a lot of adversity with the pandemic, and we overcame a lot. I was proud to be a part of it.”
As Vestavia Hills made its deep run in the basketball postseason, Dressback was forced to miss the start of her senior soccer season. She wanted to go back and forth, but she wasn’t allowed.
“I definitely wanted to play both, but they wouldn’t let me because school rules won’t let you be involved in two varsity sports at the same time,” Dressback said. “I was disappointed, but I understand because of the risk of injury playing two sports at the same time.”
Dressback missed a handful of soccer games. “I don’t know the exact number, but it was more than I wanted to,” she said.
Once the basketball season was over, Dressback joined the soccer team the next day for practice.
Soccer is her first love. She started playing when she was 3 because her dad, Shane Dressback, is a soccer coach.
“I grew up in the sport,” she said.
She has been playing club soccer for Alabama FC 03 ECNL for several years.
A midfielder, Dressback had been more of a defender earlier in her high school career, but this season she’s an attacking midfielder for the Rebels.
“I get up the field a lot more,” Dressback said. “It’s really nice.”
Vestavia Hills coach Brigid Meadow said Dressback is versatile enough to play any position on the field.
“She’s one of our best athletes,” Meadow said. “She’s always been a center back, but I put her close to attacking because she’s such a force. She can do anything.”
Dressback scored a goal in a 3-0 victory against Hewitt on March 9 but was sidelined after contracting COVID.
“I didn’t feel that bad, not like my parents who both had it and felt really bad,” Dressback said. “I had to quarantine, and it was so hard to not be able to practice and play.”
Dressback missed only one game and returned to action last Friday, scoring the Rebels’ only goal on an assist from senior forward Riley Vicinanzo in a 1-0 win over Oak Mountain that improved the Rebels’ record to 11-1.
“I was very excited to get to play again,” she said.
Vestavia Hills is off this week because of spring break. The Rebels are scheduled to play their next game March 31 at Thompson.
Dressback would like to end her high school soccer career with another state championship before she heads to the University of Houston on a soccer scholarship. She said she chose Houston for a variety of reasons.
“When I went to visit Houston, I really liked the campus, the team culture and the coaches. Plus, it’s a research institute and I plan to major in kinesiology and hope to get in medical school.”
Houston head coach Diego Bocanegra was glad to land Dressback.
“Kaylee is another great addition that will add some depth and versatility to our defensive midfield as well as our back line as a center-back,” Bocanegra said at the time of her signing. “She is strong in the air and in the tackle, she can quickly switch the point of attack and even score goals from distance because of her ability to strike the ball. She is a phenomenally hard worker, and I expect her to transition very quickly to the college game.”
Dressback dreams of playing professionally one day and then becoming a trauma surgeon.
“I tore my meniscus my freshman year and had to have surgery,” Dressback said. “I had to go through physical therapy and got interested in sports medicine.”