College graduation won’t be quite how Orlando Pride rookie Konya Plummer imagined it.
Plummer’s University of Central Florida commencement ceremony is Saturday, but it will take place online as a stripped-down version of the celebration due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s not what Plummer pictured, but the day remains a reminder of how far she’s come since becoming a Knight two years ago.
“The fact that I know I’ve accomplished something, that’s something I’m happy for,” Plummer said.
Plummer only spent two years at UCF, but it was one of the most prolific periods of her young career.
During two successful seasons with the Knights, Plummer racked up school and conference honors. Last summer she was named captain of the Jamaican national team at the age of 21, leading the Reggae Girlz to their first FIFA World Cup appearance. And in January, she was drafted by the Orlando Pride, signing a two-year contract with the team.
It’s been a whirlwind, but UCF women’s soccer coach Tiffany Sahaydak said this is only the start for Plummer.
“As a soccer player, she is a force,” Sahaydak said. “When she’s on the pitch, she’ll do anything for her team, for her coaches, for the club. She’ll run through a brick wall for you. She can handle the best in the world defensively. People are gonna love watching her play.”
Plummer started her college career at Southeastern University, a school in the second division of the NAIA. She always aimed to transfer to a Division I school, seeking the tougher competition it would offer.
At Southeastern, she played out of position as a forward. When she transferred to UCF as a junior, she moved back into her natural defensive position.
During her senior season, Plummer started 16 of 17 matches and allowed only seven goals on her way to winning AAC Defensive Player of the Year honors.
At UCF, she also found a mentor in Sahaydak, who gave Plummer guidance about her play at both the collegiate and international level. Sahaydak, a member of the U.S. women’s national team that won the 1999 World Cup, helped Plummer balance her duties to both teams.
“She was the person that I wanted to make proud,” Plummer said of Sahaydak. “As a former national player, she’s a motivational speaker in a sense. I wanted to be like her. She inspired me, and everything I’ve done on and off the field is because of the person she is and the person she would want me to be.”
Growing up in Saint Mary, Jamaica, Plummer had to fight for a place on the pitch. The only neighborhood kids who played pick-up soccer were boys, and they relegated her to the sidelines, assuming a girl wouldn’t be able to keep up.
At first, Plummer listened to them, tugging at the grass and watching the action from the sidelines. But eventually, Plummer refused to move to the side, taking her spot on the pitch whether or not the boys approved.
“I think it made me learn to be mentally strong,” Plummer said. “Each time someone passed me on the field, I was like, ‘Next time you won’t pass me.’”
The experience taught her to hone an aggressive, physical style of play to keep up with older, bigger players. It also made her love the game even more.
When Plummer was 12, her mom gave her a football for the first time. She slept with it, protecting the ball and the dreams attached to it.
“[My mom] loved that I played sports,” Plummer said. “It was the first thing she really gave me that I cherished so much.”
Plummer didn’t watch a lot of women’s soccer when she was young, but she always knew one name — Marta. She was the best-known women’s player throughout the Caribbean, and as Plummer continued to grow as a player, the nickname “young Marta” began to follow her.
“I didn’t know much but I said, ‘OK, I’m young Marta,’” Plummer said.
When she transferred to UCF, Plummer attended Orlando Pride games and watched Marta play at Exploria Stadium. Those games stoked her dream of playing both with and against the Brazilian star.
Last summer, part of the dream came true when Jamaica played its opening match against Marta and the Brazilian national team.
Brazil won the game 3-0 off a hat trick from Cristiane. But after the game, Marta visited the Jamaican locker room to offer words of encouragement to the young team.
Now the pair are teammates, completing the other half of Plummer’s dream. She is eager to continue learning from the star who offered inspiring words during the World Cup.
“I know she knows how it feels to be the first one moving up,” Plummer said. “That moment stands out to me and it was amazing to see such a legend come into our locker just to speak to us.”
Jamaica didn’t advance past the group stage, but Plummer’s World Cup experience meant more than just the results. Every time she stepped on the pitch in the captain’s armband, she knew she was making history for the Reggae Girlz.
The team made history again during its final match against Australia when Havana Solaun scored the first World Cup goal in the team’s history.
As Plummer sprinted from the back line to the opposing goal to embrace Solaun and her teammates, she savored the adrenaline rush of the moment.
“I felt like the stadium stood still,” Plummer said. “That one goal we scored, it didn’t matter if we [lost] or anything. That one goal, it changes everything.”
Jamaica just scored their first-ever World Cup goal 🙌
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) June 18, 2019
The World Cup prepared Plummer for a successful senior season. But even after she racked up honors at UCF, Plummer wasn’t certain if she wanted to enter the 2020 NWSL draft or take her chances as a free agent. Sahaydak gave her the push she needed, ensuring the defender met every draft deadline.
When the Pride selected her with the No. 10 overall pick, Plummer said she felt returning to Orlando was a natural fit for the next step in her career.
“That was one of the biggest moments for me other than the World Cup,” Plummer said. “It’s different, but I felt like I’d accomplished so much at such a young age. It was unbelievable.”
Now Plummer is focused on the future, with both the Reggae Girlz and the Orlando Pride.
As she’s built her career, Plummer has always relied on her faith. When she looks forward to her rookie season in the NWSL that has been delayed by a pandemic, she continues to use that faith to guide her.
“I relied a lot on God,” Plummer said. “I prayed a lot. Getting the mind right and relying on God, I feel like everything is easier and everything I stepped into fit. Something that I always remember is to stay humble, just to do work according to God’s plan. Everything I am going toward, I pray, ‘God I hope this is something that You want for me,’ and then I step into it with faith.”