Katie Hultin was a goalkeeper for the Washington State Cougars when the Pac-12 was merely the Pac-10.
She made quite a name for herself during her time there, earning team MVP honors once and Most Inspirational four times. Hultin made Cougar history by being named the Pac-10 player of the week twice in one season.
Upon graduation from WSU, Hultin — pronounced “Hul-teen” — began coaching soccer, while playing in the W-League and the Women’s Professional Soccer League in the summers. She was a goalkeeper for the Seattle Sounders for five seasons.
“I think that everyone in my life at the time knew that I was going to be a coach except for me,” Oregon’s newest assistant coach said.
“I just couldn’t give up soccer.”
Hultin became a volunteer assistant coach at Seattle University, which she refers to as one of her first “grown up jobs.”
“I was kind of driven to grow up a little bit,” Hultin said. “I really enjoy working with college-aged players; it was the right fit for me.”
In 2014, Hultin joined the coaching staff at the University of Illinois of the Big-10 conference, then rejoined the Pac-12 as an Oregon Duck.
She describes the two Division I conferences as being similar to one another. “Every game is — it’s anyone’s to take. Every game really counts and really means something.”
“I’ve been really fortunate to coach in some great conferences, but I’m really excited to be back in the Pac-12. I’ve always loved the conference of champions,” she said with a grin.
Since Hultin joined the Oregon women’s soccer team as an assistant coach in the spring, the Ducks have had their best season start in five years. They currently remain undefeated with a 5-0-1 record.
Still, she refrained from crediting herself for any of Oregon’s 2016 successes.
“[This season] is a true testament to the staff that’s here,” she said. “Kat and Manny and Christie, who was here that last few years — the work they’ve put into this program… it’s showing right now on the field.”
Head coach Kat Mertz, on the other hand, has no problem bragging about Hultin.
“Not only is her [soccer] knowledge off the charts, but just her ability to connect with her players in such a short amount of time has been really rewarding for me, as a coach, to see them latch on and get motivated behind her,” Mertz said. “[She has] a really good teaching and coaching mentality and style. It really works well for our team.”
As a former goalkeeper and current defensive specialist, Hultin’s eyes lit up when talking about the backfield. “I’m extremely passionate about shutting down the opponent,” she said enthusiastically.
So far this season, with only six games played, the Ducks have recorded three shutouts, completed by goalkeepers Halla Hinriksdottir and Katelyn Carter.
“The back line, the defense — they’re my people,” Hultin said. “It’s one of those things that I’m passionate about teaching.”
While being interviewed, Hultin breezily greeted two of her players as they arrived for practice, as if they had been friends for decades.
Of her team, she said, “they’re close-knit, they have each others backs, they’re really, really fun to be around.”
“It’s quite a privilege to be a part of the University of Oregon athletic department,” she continued. “I feel like I’ve been here for years, just the way the team is [so welcoming]. It’s good to be back in the Pac Northwest.”
With almost a nostalgic look in her eye, Hultin said, “Time’s going to fly by.”
Follow Alexa Chedid on Twitter @alexachedid18