ORLANDO, Fla. -- Heading into Saturday's home game, goalkeeper Kaylie Collins didn't know she would be starting her first NWSL game.
It was a surprise, to be sure, but a welcome one.
"I didn't honestly I didn't know I was going to be starting until pretty recently before the game," she said, "I felt great. It was good timing because I've been going after it in training."
Collins got the nod for the second time in a Pride uniform after starting against Gotham FC in the NWSL Challenge Cup Last year. This was her first time starting in the regular season, but also her first start at Exploria Stadium.
"I came in this year and it felt different than any other year," Collins said following Orlando's 2-0 defeat. "In the two-and-a-half-ish years I was here before, there wasn't a lot of expectation that I put on myself. A lot of it was coming in, learning how to be a pro, which is been a great process and I have a lot of good people around me to help me.
But this was the year that I came in and I was like 'I expect more from myself' and it's the expectation that leads to put yourself out for disappointment. So it's been a cool process to actually feel that and feel the highs and the lows, but the highs are great, so it's worth it."
That expectation Collins has put on herself mixed with the drive to compete at training has been noticed by the Pride's coaching staff. Competition has been key for the building blocks of head coach Seb Hines' team this year and the efforts in practice earned her an opportunity to prove herself.
"Kaylie has been within the club for a while now. She's been waiting for an opportunity. I remember last year she played Gotham and she was brilliant." Hines said, "She's just been patient and I thought she was great today. I thought there were going to be a few nerves, but she managed them well."
The 24-year-old Collins is one of the many young players on this Pride roster who is looking to earn her stripes in the league. The two central defenders who played in front of her on Saturday, Caitlin Cosme and Emily Madril, are 24 and 23 respectively. All three of them have had different experiences in getting to this point in their careers, but for Collins, it's ideal to be able to develop as professionals together.
"It's a lot of talking, a lot of like good relationships off the field and on the field," she said. “We are all young, and with that, there's no egos. Honestly, it's a lot of, ‘I'm going to lean on you, you're going to lean on me, we're going to lean on our great outside backs that have that experience.’ It's a lot of listening and learning.
"It’s a really cool environment to be in because we are all developing so quickly and we're doing it together. We are becoming pros together in a sense. I'm so happy with the backline and especially tonight, they saved me in so many moments. So I'm really appreciative and have good relationships with them.”
Collins and the young Pride team will look to continue earning opportunities to develop as they prepare to open up the NWSL Challenge Cup on Wednesday as they will host the North Carolina Courage at 7 p.m.