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The first letter in Tziarra King's first name is silent, but that's just about the only thing about the North Carolina State standout that’s quiet.
King, a star for the Princeton Soccer Association Tigers ‘97 for two seasons while playing in EDP, attracts a lot of attention when she is on the soccer field. That usually happens when she’s scoring, creating goals and winning games. Zee, as she is known to friends and family, has turned into one exceptional player.
"She was a very committed player over her youth career," PSA executive director Ollie Hilliker said. "She's a natural goal-scorer. Her movement and style of the game has always been far advanced. She gets herself in very good positions to receive the ball and get goal-scoring opportunities."
As coach of the PSA Tigers '97, John Newman was able to fine tune those skills. The PSA Tigers, with Zee and her teammate Rebecca Frisk (now a forward for the University of Massachusetts) in his lineup, his team lost only once in 54 games over two seasons. "In 1 v 1 situations, she was deadly," Newman said. "If you went 1 v 1 20 yards out from goal, it was game over. She would go past the defenders like they weren't there. She's got loads of pace and athleticism, matched with technical ability. She would do moves, scissors past people, hawks, drag backs, stops, starts."
Zee's speed was never more evident than in track and field at Winslow High School, where she was the 2014 New Jersey state champion in the indoor and outdoor 4 x 400.
With a level of discipline head and shoulders above the rest, King was a coach's delight. "Always at practice, always listening, always learning,” Head Coach Newman says.
"Great attitude, great mentality, dedicated player. Really humble. Was captain of the team. Deserves everything's she's got. She's a great player in 1 v 1 situations, great team player. Good leader on the field, good leader off the field. Coming from a great family. Really instilled that quality into her while growing up. Very humble, Very hard-working person."
Especially in the New Jersey state cup competitions. In the Under-18 cup final a few years ago, PSA faced the New Jersey Stallions, two-time champions that had defeated Princeton in the championship match in previous years. That year, King scored both goals in a 2-0 win for Princeton. "She dug in deep, and she dug in deep and scored,” Newman said. In the U.S. Club Soccer State Cup final, Zee recorded a hat-trick in a win. When PSA captured the NPL crown, she was the league's top goal-scorer. During her short time with the team, Zee said "it was definitely enjoyable. The training was always high level. The facilities we practiced on we’re really nice. It was definitely fun." Her biggest challenge during her youth soccer days? Time, balancing school with soccer, "especially since Princeton was an hour from my house," she said. "Right after school, we had a carpool. All the south Jersey kids would ride up there."
King tallied eight goals as a freshman at N.C. State, an excellent number for a first-year player. She connected for 17 as a sophomore in 2017. All things considered, the transition to college ball was smooth. "The coaching staff and my teammates made it an easy transition especially the older players," she said. "They really helped us to understand and get accustomed to what we really need to do."
A 2016 graduate of Winslow Township High School, Zee gave a lot of credit to her parents, who attend games at N.C. State in Raleigh, N.C. on a regular basis. "I wouldn't even be where I am right now without them," he said. "I can't put it into words, honestly. They make almost every game. There are very few games they miss. Even with it being a seven-hour drive, they will drive down Thursday morning and drive back Thursday night after the game to go to work the next morning. They are so dedicated to me becoming the best overall player and person I could be, and I cannot be more thankful for that."
Newman predicted King’s goal total will rise this fall. "She'll be 25 plus next year. ... because she is a player who can adapt to the surroundings," he said. "She has two full seasons of college soccer under her belt. She's a year older, a year cleverer, a year stronger, a year more physical. She's a handful."
In fact, Zee has been asked to stretch her game as she was called into the U.S. Under-23 Women's National Team training camp. "It was definitely an honor to be recognized for the hard work that I put in and to be one of the best players in the country," she said. "That was an honor. It was an awesome experience. I was so thankful I had the ability to play there."
"I feel she will be a full international in 12 months," Newman said. "She's doing really well with the Under-23s right now. Women on the U.S. National Team are getting on a little bit. There's going to be a new influx. In college, she is going to get better. I think the sky's the limit for her. I really do." Seemingly unaffected by the pressure of receiving looks from US Soccer staff in recent months, Zee seems to be taking one day at a time. "Right now, I'm just kind of going with the flow," she said. "I would like to see my soccer career continue after college. My focus is to continue to get better and hopefully from there my options will open up."
Hard to believe someone who scored 78 goals her last two years in high school avoids opportunities to boast as much as Zee does. She’s led the team in goals her Freshman and Sophomore years at NC State and King doesn’t look like she’s slowing down.
Tziarra King’s humility and hard work are what allow her to improve and learn at the rate she does. Her grounded approach and letting her game do the talking are perhaps the most impressive traits about the star striker.
Photos courtesy of US Soccer Federation and Winslow Township High School