Contrary to appearances, Kelly Manski does feel fatigue during soccer matches.
She just conceals it better than just about any other player around.
The seemingly omnipresent Manski was all over the field again as a St. Charles North senior, and she added clutch goal-scoring to her repertoire, nabbing Kane County Chronicle Girls Soccer Player of the Year honors.
Manski’s conditioning never is in question, and her skill level continues to catch up.
“I looked at her this year thinking she couldn’t possibility be more fit than she was last year, and this year she came in again and was leading all of our runs and pushing people right from the start,” North coach Ruth Vostal said.
Manski participated in one year of high school cross country as a junior, and immediately became one of the program’s top runners. Shin splints that developed helped convince her to focus solely on soccer – she had already given up basketball after sophomore year – but Manski continued to put her highly charged motor to good use on the soccer field.
“She always encourages everyone to stay with her, too, which is a great aspect to have because she just pushes our team on team runs, and even in practices, whenever we have fitness, she’s always encouraging everyone to run up with her,” said North midfielder Natalie Winkates, a longtime high school and club teammate of Manski’s. “And then during games, to have her as an outside forward or outside-mid, she always gets up and back. She’s great to have for defense and offense. Her energy right from the start really helps our team.”
Manski saw her role shift as a senior in several ways, most notably in playing more of a forward spot than the midfield role she had in the past. But Manski was no prototypical forward, using her speed and endurance to make plays all over the field to the extent that Vostal often wouldn’t know where to find her.
Not that the veteran coach minded. Manski earned the long leash.
“I would know she would get back and was making a choice I knew was best for the team,” Vostal said. “ … I trusted her to do what was best, and I knew she could pretty much outwork anyone she needed to to get back in that position if she needed to.”
A Wisconsin-Milwaukee recruit, Manski scored 12 goals and notched 10 assists as a senior, but it was the timing of her production rather than raw output that was most impressive.
Several of her scores came in North’s biggest matches. She scored off a slick move in the Upstate Eight Conference River champion North Stars’ 1-0 win against St. Charles East, and notched arguably her signature score of the season by cracking in a free kick in the second half of North’s 1-0 win against Geneva in the IHSA Class 3A Hoffman Estates Sectional final.
“Finally in the second half when I did score, I think it lifted everyone up and we played even harder until the end, not letting them score,” Manski said.
When Manski uncorked that whistling free kick, Kristen Manski said she “jumped out of the bleachers.” Kristen Manski, a college goalkeeper at Valparaiso, was only able to see a handful of her little sister’s matches this season, and came away marveling at the player she has become.
“Honestly, her consistency with her shot really surprised me because I don’t get to see her play as much as I’d like to because I’m away at school, but her consistency with her shots on goal really, honestly surprised me, and impressed me,” Kristen Manski said. “When I watched her games this season, I knew she was always a quick midfielder, and I never really had thought of her as a forward, but seeing her able to put shots on frame from so far out from goal with such consistency really, really impressed me. … I was almost a little jealous even though my position is so different.”
Older sisters Kristen Manski and Lisa Manski preceded Kelly in the North Stars’ program. Lisa Manski was a senior on last year’s North team that finished as Class 3A state runners-up; this year, North fell to Barrington in a supersectional.
Manski recently won the “Coach’s Award” that Vostal designates to the player that made a major impact both on North’s team and also on her family, from a character standpoint, an award that each of her sisters also nabbed during their North careers.
While Manski is tight with her older siblings, she never was tempted to follow Kristen in net as a goalkeeper.
That would have left her with way too much unburned energy at the end of a match.
“I think that could be it,” Manski said. “Too much standing around.”