On social media, she paired a photo of her celebrating as a Lady Vol and Nyla celebrating in a commitment photo.
“I have a couple pictures of me screaming when I played and being real passionate,” she said. “How cool I’m going to get a picture of me like that and then Nyla when she is committed. A lot of the parents will even say when they see Nyla on the field, she’s like a lion. And I take great pride in that because that’s how I was on the court and even that’s how her dad was on the field.
“Nyla is like a lion but when you get to know her she’s like a lamb. She’s very loving. She’s very giving. She’s very others focused and tender-hearted. But don’t cross that line on that soccer field. I’m telling you. You’re gonna see a different Nyla in a very good way. She’s not dirty or anything like that but she will run you off the ball. She will slide tackle. She will win the ball in the air. She is a straight competitor. There’s no ands, ifs or buts about it.”
Nyla still has to finish her junior year of high school and play one more soccer season as a senior next fall. She will spend that time working on her soccer skills.
“There’s always things to improve on – the small things and just trying to perfect those, comes down to my touch, my passing or just key awareness on the field,” Nyla said. “Those small things would harness my ability and make me a better soccer player. Some of my strengths are winning balls and being able to advance it up the field. I am like the general of the field. I demand a lot of attention and I’m kind of unmovable or hard to get knocked off the ball. I love intimidation factors. It’s always so fun to play other teams.”
So, has she ever watched clips of her mother playing basketball?
“Here and there,” Nyla said. “She’s kind of a beast I heard.”
The Blue family will repeat the recruiting process with Jayla Blue, a forward in the Class of 2026. The sisters have one more season to play together at high school.
“At the beginning, it was kind of hard to believe, ‘Oh my gosh, my little baby sister’s playing with me,'” Nyla said. “But it was just also really fun to be able to have this journey with her and just being able to play side by side with her. Even though we play opposite positions, I think it’s fun because either way defensively or offensively, we’re just dangerous and other teams have to see that there’s now two of us.”
Kristen and Avery Blue are prepared for a second recruiting process for Jayla after navigating the field with Nyla.
“I feel like we have, especially in the soccer world, a lot more knowledge and wisdom with Jayla,” Kristen Blue said. “This whole thing with Nyla with every coach, they sat down, Jayla was in there in the room, and Nyla was like, ‘I’m going to let you know off the bat coach. We’re a package deal.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, my God!’ So I don’t know. Who knows where Jayla will end up?
“She does desire to play college ball with her sister and both long term they want to play professional. They want to play USA soccer. Jayla, she told me, ‘Mom, I’m not committing until my senior year.’ I’m like, ‘That’s a lie. You’re not going to put us through this again. You’re going to commit as soon as you know.’ But she was of course laughing, she’s our jokester.”
Little sister couldn’t wait for big sister’s news about Tennessee to become public in October.
“My parents are pretty excited for her, but I think I was more excited definitely,” Jayla said. “She committed on a Saturday, and I wanted to tell everybody but I could not. I wanted her to post about it so bad. I was just so excited.
“I have said I wanted to play with my sister in college, but if that’s not where I need to be, then I don’t need to be with her in college, but it would be quite nice to play with her.”
Jayla is a tough player on the field and tried to stay in a match during the state playoffs despite blood pouring down her face after an inadvertent collision with an opponent.
“I went up for a header and I head the ball the first time to head it over the other girl,” Jayla said. “And then I head the ball again, and the ball went in the back of the net, so that was the good part. Another defender came in to clear the ball with her head, but she hit my left side of my head instead of the ball. It busted right under my eyebrow, and there was a bunch of blood gushing everywhere.
“I was trying to get it to stop so I could keep playing. But it wouldn’t stop, and I had to go off. But I went back on second half.”
With college, professional and USA soccer goals in front of his daughter, Avery Blue, a former college athlete, had some advice for Nyla.
“UT is a launching pad, not a landing zone,” he said. And for her, she felt like UT was the best place to launch her into her desired goal which is to play professionally and potentially for the USA one day. And so what better launching pad do you have? Take advantage of that. At this moment, she is representing not only Bearden High School, which is a phenomenal school to play for and represent, but she’s also representing UT now. Staying goal focused is going to be very important and the decisions she makes has to be centered around those goals.”
While it’s well off into the future, where does Nyla see herself when soccer is over?
“If I’m not playing soccer, then I want to be either an engineer or a stay-at-home mom, but we’ll have to see about those two things,” she said.
The sports family goes hither and yon to accommodate the assorted activities of Nyla and Jayla, but with one child committed to college – and now able to drive herself to places – the Blues hope to increase their connection to Lady Vols basketball.
“When we moved back to Knoxville, Avery and I talked about that,” Kristen Blue said. “I want to try to get more involved with the Lady Vols, and I’ve talked with Kellie a couple times. She’s got an open door policy. I’m super excited for where Kellee is taking this program. Obviously with the loss of Coach (Pat) Summitt, that’s just big shoes to fill and something that we’ve always talked about is that there will never be another Coach Summitt. Holly (Warlick) had some big shoes to fill and here comes Kellie and the big thing with Kellie is Kellie is Kellie.”
“But the cool thing is playing under Coach Summitt, there’s things and principles that Coach Summitt has instilled in her, and you can see it as she is trying to keep tradition and again turn the ship around. I think she’s doing a phenomenal job, and I’m super excited where she’s taking these girls and there’s going to be probably some bumps along the road but that’s part of the journey.
“I definitely am going to get more involved, and I’m going to bring Nyla and Jayla and want her to be around that culture and that atmosphere. I haven’t been very involved because we travel a lot and with me driving and I would have to take the girls to practices every night and with travel ball and things like that. But now Nyla is driving thank the Lord. I have a little bit more free time.
“I was crying because my baby is driving. I can’t believe this. But then when she left, I was like, ‘Avery, this is awesome, we get our life back.’ ”
Like mother, like daughter. Former @LadyVol_Hoops player Kristen (Clement) Blue posted these photos after her daughter, a junior @BHSLadySoccer in Knoxville, committed last month to play @Volley_Soccer. #ladyvols pic.twitter.com/l6M5Yk0Kqj
— Maria M. Cornelius (@mmcornelius) November 6, 2022
Kristen Blue played basketball with a lot of emotion and that passion now is focused on her family. So, how does she react when she sees Nyla walk onto a soccer field wearing a Tennessee jersey for the first time?
“I probably will cry. That’s for sure. I’m crying right now,” she said. “My girls make fun of me, ‘Mom, you’re always crying.’ I’m like, ‘Because I love you guys so much.’ Honestly, I’m sure every flood of emotion will run through my heart and brain. But it’ll be more of just a proud mom. I think with my family background and with my husband’s family background, entering into that college atmosphere and even getting a college degree was very scarce.
“First of all, going to college is a huge accomplishment in and of itself, and that’s always been a prayer and a dream for my husband and I that our girls would be able to go to college and then again, let alone being a student -athlete and Nyla stepping on the field in a UT uniform. Again, like the girls said, I’ll probably cry but I think really I’ll just be super proud of her, because I know that she will step on the field representing the Lord obviously first, she will represent the university very well and the Blue family very well.”