Donley a shoe-in for best soccer player

Donley a shoe-in for best soccer player

MAHOMET – It is perhaps a bit ironic that The News-Gazette's Area Player of the Year in soccer doesn't want anyone coming near her feet.

Mahomet-Seymour junior Kelsie Donley has a thing for shoes, and her self-described obsession played itself out one day when an unsuspecting freshman tapped her on the foot and said, "Hey, great job!" after a game.

"And I freaked out on her," Donley said. "A few minutes later I felt so bad."

Donley can't even keep track of how many pairs of shoes she owns. Her compulsiveness is taken to an extreme, too: Her soccer cleats must be new and not-yet-broken-in. "I like them stiff," she said. "I don't like them worn-in."

If that doesn't qualify as irony, this does: One of the best soccer players in the area isn't even known most for her footwork. Donley is exceptional on "throw-ins," a commonly seen play that restarts the action after the ball has gone out of bounds.

Donley is so good at throw-ins that she handles that duty on the offensive half for her M-S and Little Illini teams.

Though she's decidedly wiry, Donley can throw the ball accurately to the middle of the field.

"It's a big deal," M-S goalkeeper Hillary Veitch said. "We're like, 'How the heck do you do it?' She says, 'I don't know, I just do it.'

"OK, well, keep doing it."

Among those who are envious of her ability: the boys.

"A lot of the boys in my school tell me I can throw it farther than them," Donley said. "They always want me to teach them how I do it, and I don't even know how I do it. Just a lucky talent, I guess."

Whether it is her penchant for shoes, her distinct ability in one aspect of the game or any number of other areas, Donley is a unique personality who is showing an impressive trajectory of improvement on the field.

She had 12 goals and seven assists this season for a Class 2A regional title team, but Donley's playmaking contributions extend beyond the nuts-and-bolts on the field. It's her mental approach that has helped her game grow.

Donley has always been a free spirit, a happy-go-lucky type with a quick wit – and unafraid to let it show. She has exasperated a coach or two in her time, the boss having been fed up with Donley's wisecracks.

"She's hilarious," Veitch said.

"We used to not be able to control our laughter," Donley said, referring to her partner-in-ridicule, teammate Kara Breedlove.

But, perhaps naturally, things began to change recently. Now 17, Donley credits a new sense of awareness in helping her take a different approach toward her sport.

"I had a different attitude (this year)," she said. "I wanted it more, and I was more serious. I think I matured a lot from the year before."

Playing for Little Illini Soccer Club, she said, made her take the game more seriously. Plus, she was intent this spring on guiding her high school team to a highly coveted regional championship, as each of the past two seasons ended in bitter disappointments.

"This year," Veitch said, "she was really, really motivated and obviously it showed."

Donley teamed with Breedlove to form a prolific tandem. She also was an unfailing leader, providing positive feedback for her teammates whenever she could. And that no doubt played an important role in what the Bulldogs said, by acclimation, was outstanding team chemistry.

"It was one of those teams that just clicked," Donley said. "Everybody got along."

For that, Donley deserves some credit. Fortunately for her, all of her teammates now know that she takes her shoes seriously. Leave 'em alone. And they know that if someone needs a good pick-me-up, Donley will be there with an encouraging word, a smile and a one-liner.

That's just her.

"She's really sweet," Veitch said.

12th N-G All-Area Girls' Soccer Team

First Team

Goalkeeper    Hillary Veitch    Jr.    Mahomet-Seymour    Neil Anderson
Forward    Hannah Smith    Jr.    Monticello    Lois Cryder
Forward    Kelsie Donley    Jr.    Mahomet-Seymour    Neil Anderson
Forward    Kate Russell    Sr.    Urbana    Craig Huff
Forward    Kim Vega    Jr.    Champaign Central    Kara Wilken
Forward    Nora Al-Qadi    Jr.    Centennial    Hsiung Marler
Forward    Kara Breedlove    Jr.    Mahomet-Seymour    Neil Anderson
Midfielder    Erika Belmont    Jr.    Urbana University    Phil Anders
Midfielder    Amanda Greco    Sr.    Champaign Central    Kara Wilken
Midfielder    Paige Whippo    Sr.    Centennial    Hsiung Marler
Midfielder    Michelle Wong    Jr.    Urbana University    Phil Anders
Defender    Allegra Wentworth    Jr.    Urbana    Craig Huff
Second Team

Goalkeeper    Micaela McLennand    Jr.    Centennial    Hsiung Marler
Goalkeeper    Aubrey Morse    Sr.    Urbana    Craig Huff
Forward    Grace Ayodele    Fr.    Centennial    Hsiung Marler
Forward    Brittney Gallivan    Sr.    Monticello    Lois Cryder
Forward    Zoe Keller    Sr.    Urbana    Craig Huff
Midfielder    Joy Shapley    Sr.    Urbana University    Phil Anders
Defender    Sarah Moe    Sr.    Champaign Central    Kara Wilken
Defender    Jamie Legner    Jr.    Mahomet-Seymour    Neil Anderson
Defender    Mia Gilliam    Jr.    Champaign Central    Kara Wilken
Defender    Anne Machesky    Sr.    Urbana University    Phil Anders
Defender    Jenna Eaton    Jr.    Centennial    Hsiung Marler
Defender    Ellen Moe    Soph.    Champaign Central    Kara Wilken

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