COLLINSVILLE — Kat Roe still can't believe her Collinsville High School playing career has reached its end.
But before Roe sets foot on the pitch this fall at Division II Lindenwood-St. Charles, she was able to relive the good times after being selected the News-Democrat's Player of the Year.
It's the second consecutive Player of the Year honor for Roe, a midfielder who had 23 goals and 12 assists for the Kahoks (17-7).
"I was like, 'Whoa!' It's pretty cool," Roe said of the honor, bestowed upon her by metro-east coaches. "To get it two years in a row, I feel honored. I thought that maybe they would give it to someone else this year, like another senior, just because I got it last year.
"I'm happy I got it. Hard work pays off, and I'm glad I got it my senior year, too."
Kahoks coach Clay Smith was equally pleased.
"She's a very special player, on the field and off the field," said Smith, who earned the Coach of the Year award. "The things she contributes on the field are a gift. Somehow, some way, Kat always came up with the special goals. As a defender, you think you have her contained, but before you know it she finds space, the ball is on her foot and in the back of the net."
And it can happen in the blink of an eye. Roe admittedly doesn't possess the foot speed of other players, but her shot velocity and accuracy, particularly on restarts, are a deadly combination.
"She can score from just about anywhere," Smith said. "If you give her 3 yards of space, she's going to try to put it in. At the same time, if she can't get the job done, she'll distribute the ball."
Over her last two seasons, Roe scored goals in nine consecutive postseason games, a streak that finally was snapped May 28 in the Class 3A Normal Super-Sectional where the Kahoks fell to eventual state champion Naperville North 2-0.
The Huskies also defeated the Kahoks 4-1 in the Normal Super-Sectional in 2012 en route to the state title.
Roe scored in the first overtime May 17 as Collinsville defeated O'Fallon 3-2 in the title game of the O'Fallon Regional. Roe had two goals in the Collinsville Sectional semifinals as the Kahoks ousted Edwardsville 4-1. Roe then nailed a 26-yard free kick to give the Kahoks a 2-1 win over Normal 2-1 in the sectional-title game.
"She says, 'Give me the ball and I'll take care of it,'" Smith said. "I think she enjoys that pressure."
Free kicks are perhaps Roe's favorite part of the game. On any restart within 40 yards, Roe's goal is to put a shot on frame. If goalies aren't ready, they soon will be fishing the ball from the back of the net.
"A lot of goalkeepers will come up to me after a game and be like, 'I'm scared of your shot,'" Roe said. "There's goalkeepers that I know and play with, and they're like, 'Your shot hurts my hand.'
"That's a big part of the game. It's kind of like missing a free throw in a basketball game. You have to take advantage of those. I don't know how many goals I scored off restarts this year, but it was quite a few."
Smith said Roe's fitness level was better as a senior, and he's convinced that played a role in her ability to shed a bad habit.
As a junior, Roe was often implored by Smith to not put her head down when a play didn't go her way.
"She had her moments this year, like all high school athletes do," Smith said. "But she did much better with that. A lot of that is attributed to her fitness level. She was more fit this year than last year. She had the extra energy to use her legs and go get the ball."
Roe acknowledged the problem and credits Smith for staying diligent about helping her fix it.
"He was always on me about that," Roe said, adding that club coaches have expressed the same concern to her about it in the past. "If you lose the ball, you have to go back and get it. I realized that this year: You can't stop. You can't just rely on the people behind you to do that. You can't take breaks in soccer."
Despite her high goal total, Roe considers herself as much a playmaker as a scorer. She spent most of her career at forward, but accelerated her play when Smith moved her to center mid.
"I enjoyed that better because I could do more give-and-goes," Roe said. "That was better than getting the ball, trying to turn with it and beat the whole defense.
"I honestly would rather have more assists than goals. It's a team sport. If I'm marked and can't finish the ball or I can't dribble around ... I would often get the ball and have someone at my back, so I would have to pass around to get out of it. It led to goals."
The Kahoks had other options if Roe was being tightly defended. Sophomore Mikayla McCarthy had 20 goals, senior Alyssa Reiniger had 14 and sophomore Sophie Sharos had seven.
Roe is playing with Fire & Ice Soccer Club this summer. The team plays in the Women's Premier Soccer League, and it figures to provide Roe with first-hand experience at what it will take for her to make the adjustment to the faster pace of the college level.
"High school is way different than college," Roe said. "High school's slower. For college, it's going to be a much faster pace and the girls are going to be much stronger. You've just got to hold your ground and work hard no matter what. I've got to get used to it."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.