Kelly’s soccer journey


The alarm blares throughout the once silent room. The blues and grays of morning break through the window. It’s time to wake up and get ready for the day.

School ends and it’s time for two-hour practices followed by the need to stay later until the coach drags the player off the field. She rushes home to complete homework and leave, yet again, for travel team practice. It’s dark when she arrives home, and exhaustion is lurking nearby. Tomorrow is game day so she better go to bed.

Eat. Sleep. Repeat.

This was the schedule for sophomore soccer player, Makenzie Kelly, sports management and marketing major.

She started playing soccer when she was just 3-years-old and the passion continued to rage within her.

“I played every year. Every fall and spring. Even sometimes whenever it got later it ended up being all year round in the summer and the winter,” Kelly said.

She played on recreational leagues throughout her youth and was even part of a travel team which played in the fall and spring. Eventually in high school that switched, and Kelly played on her travel and high school teams in the fall.

Despite both teams, she still managed to balance her schoolwork, athletics, friends and family.

“I think the biggest thing was time management. I knew the days I had practice and I had to make sure that I got my homework done before I left for practice,” she said. “Taking advantage of any free time I had during the school day and when I got home to finish up my work made a big difference.”

During her sophomore year, Kelly experienced a shoulder break that concerned her for a brief period of time and benched her for part of her high school season making her rethink her future in the game.

“That was really tough on me. I got kinda down on myself. I really started questioning if it was worth it with my health and questioned am I good enough to come and beat this from sitting out so long,” she said.

During this time, she noticed she wasn’t getting looked at by the schools she was hoping to attend and further struggled with her want to play the game.

“I realized I wasn’t getting recruited by the people I wanted to be recruited by… so that put a hold on recruiting and I was like okay, no one is coming to watch me play, no one is emailing me or reaching out, but I took it upon myself and go to specific identification camps for specific schools and I emailed a bunch of different schools to come and watch me play,” she said.

Her work ethic is what caught the attention of former Ashland University coach Danny Krispinsky who lost his battle to cancer in January.

Taylor Clarke, current women’s head soccer coach, talked a little about the similarities Krispinsky and Kelly shared.

“DK [Danny] was so competitive in everything he did, so I think he saw a lot of himself in her,” Clarke said. “She still has that edge and it has allowed her to grow so much as a player, especially in this past off-season.”

Kelly shared that If she could say one final thing to Krispinsky it would be “thank you.”

She would thank him for not giving up on her “and pushing her to come to AU,” she said. If she hadn’t, she doesn’t think she would be able to find the relationships she has built anywhere else. “If he were here, I think that would be even stronger,” she said.

Despite the loss of their coach, the team continues to succeed together, Kelly said. Deijah Swihart, senior soccer player said she believes Kelly is a great addition to the team and will continue to grow as a leader on the field.

“She puts in the work on the field at practice and in games. Her work ethic is amazing,” she said. “I think Kenz will make a great leader. I believe she already is a leader in some way. She leads by her play and her work ethic on the field.”

Even with the support of coaches and teammates, Kelly says she considers her mom to be her greatest influence.

“The person that is most influential would be my mom. She comes to every game no matter where it is. She will still come even if I’m not playing to support me and my team,” she said.

Kelly is currently sitting out due to a minor sprained wrist, but Swihart said she is working hard on coming back.

“She has been doing lots of rehab getting treatment so she is ready for the games against Grand Valley and DavenPort for the upcoming weeks,” Swihart said.

Kelly is a big part of the team as she is a “goal scorer” which is important in the game, Swihart said, but she will be back on the field once she is cleared to play.

During recruitment Kelly said she wanted Kripisnky to give her scholarship to someone else, but he waited for her to make an official decision.

“He believed in me and I am so glad I didn’t deny him,” she said.