June has been filled with ups and downs for Collinsville High’s Sophia Sharos.
The senior midfielder helped lead the Kahoks to the Class 3A state tournament, but then she suffered a broken right leg in the semifinals against Neuqua Valley on June 5.
The injury was followed by an extended hospital stay in Naperville, where the tournament was played. Sharos finally was released Friday and is recovering at home.
Sharos, already an all-sectional and all-state performer, received more good news this week when area coaches overwhelmingly selected her as the New-Democrat’s Player of the Year in a season that saw her rack up 17 goals and 10 assists.
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“Coach Clay (Smith) texted me last night and told me,” Sharos said Tuesday. “I was really happy to receive that. He said, ‘Hopefully, that boosts your spirits up a little bit.’ I said, ‘Yeah, it definitely does.’ And he told me I got it by a landslide. It kind of made my night.
“I was very happy with my season. I have no regrets. I put it all out there. As a senior, I was very proud of the team and myself. Now that I look back at it, I think we did everything we could, and I did everything I could, to make the season successful.”
Sharos was one of several stars for the Kahoks, who placed fourth at state and finished 21-5-1. Smith watched her make life miserable for opponents for four years at the varsity level.
“She deserves this. She’s truly been a special player the last four years,” said Smith, who was chosen as the News-Democrat’s Coach of the Year. “She’s not a real big girl, but she’s done well to get stronger these last four years. Coming into her freshman year, she was tiny.”
So small, in fact, that Sharos’ mother, Fran, questioned Smith in 2012 about his decision to play Sophia on the varsity level.
“Her freshman year, I gave her a varsity uniform,” Smith said. “I remember her mom coming into the gym and asking why in the world she wasn’t dressing JV. Usually, it’s the opposite. You’re getting asked why their child isn’t dressing varsity. (Fran) just didn’t think she was ready.”
Sophia proved plenty durable. Smith estimates she only missed five or six games in her career, three or four when she suffered a concussion as a sophomore and two after the broken leg suffered in collision with Neuqua Valley goalie Hannah Parrish. Sharos was moving toward the ball near the goal line, while Parrish was charging out to gain possession.
“I always go hard into tackles,” Sharos said. “When I went into this one and was actually in pain after I slid into her, I was in shock because I have gone into harder tackles.”
The injury was the low point of Sharos’ career.
“The first week was absolutely awful,” Sharos said, referring to the intense pain and the long hospital stay. “We had to get the pain under control.”
The injury also was a dark moment for Smith.
“You hate to see anyone get hurt,” Smith said. “It’s tough. She’s your senior captain ... and we needed her in that tournament to be successful. She’s a big part of our team. When she went down and she let out that scream, I’ll never forget it. You immediately knew something was wrong, and your heart just breaks for her.
“She’s got a long road ahead of her, but she’s a tough kid. She’ll get through it and she’ll be OK.”
Doctors showed Sharos the X-rays of her leg.
“My tibia and fibia broke right across, like this straight path,” Sharos said. “Most people, when they break their bones, it’s a little fracture, a little crack. Mine was right across, a straight break. It was very painful. It was probably the worse pain I’ve felt in my life.
“I’m glad I had my mom with me. Without her, it would have been a lot worse.”
Sharos, who has signed to play at Tennessee-Martin, will be redshirted this fall, but she expects to be ready to be back on the field for the 2016 season.
“I’m disappointed about (the redshirt) because I was excited to go into UT-Martin and do things, but I have to wait a whole year,” Sharos said. “But it will happen eventually and I’ll come back. I’m going to work really hard in rehab with all the physical therapy. One day at a time.”
Despite being smaller than many players, Sharos played with a mean streak, regularly letting opponents know she wouldn’t back down, under any circumstance. Sharos and teammate Mikayla McCarthy, also a senior, added a touch of spice to the Kahoks’ lineup.
“Soccer is a physical game and I like to let players know it’s not going to be easy to play against me,” Sharos said. “I let them know I’m there. I want to let people know it’s not going to be an easy challenge if they’re in the middle. My personality off the field, I’m really nice and I’m a different person. On the field, I’m more aggressive. I think people are scared of me sometimes.
“Mikayla is the same way, too. She’s really competitive on the field and super-sweet off the field.”
Smith describes Sharos as having an element of “arrogrance” on the field.
“It helps her on the field,” Smith said. “Some players with that kind of mindset, it hurts them on the field. But she just goes about her business a little stronger. It hurts opposing teams and it helps us. As a team captain, she’s not afraid to tell people what they need to do and where they need to be. The girls respect her for that.
“She’ll really be missed from a coaching standpoint. She was the complete package.”
2015 All-Area Girls Soccer Team
Player of the Year
Sophia Sharos, Collinsville, sr.
Coach of the Year
Clay Smith, Collinsville
Mikayla McCarthy, Collinsville, sr.
Sydnee Carroll, Belleville West, sr.
Lauren Kaempfe, Columbia, sr.
Morgan Sikora, Highland, sr.
Emily Holten, Collinsville, so.
Allison Wendt, Triad, jr.
Ashleigh Briggs, Granite City, sr.
Elaine Gorom, O’Fallon, sr.
Erika Lloyd, Waterloo, jr.
Shannon Maitland, Althoff, jr.
GK: Morgan Lerch, Collinsville, so.
Emilie Blomenkamp, Freeburg, jr.
Andrea Frerker, Collinsville, so.
Anna Hanger, Althoff, jr.
Grace Brauer, Belleville East, fr.
Kitty Besserman, Collinsville, jr.
Meaghan Smith, Triad, so.
Lexi Grote, Granite CIty, so.
Tamia Cash, O’Fallon, fr.
Alynnah O’Leary, Collinsville, so.
Carli Tastad, Belleville West, sr.
Abigail Crabtree, Edwardsville, so.
GK: Gabby Kayser, Triad, jr.
(Players listed in alphabetical order)
Casey Bell, Wesclin; Sierra Berg, Waterloo; Sydney Brake, O’Fallon (GK); Kara Brockmeyer, Belleville East; Zoe Christopher, Wesclin; Amelia Coyne, Belleville West; Jane Ann Crabtree, Edwardsville; Alyssa Delia, O’Fallon; Kailey Duncan, Triad; Cassie Hall, Civic Memorial; Abbie Hasenstab, Gibault; Brianna Hatfield, Alton; Hope Huelsman, Mater Dei; Taylor Kaempfe, Columbia; Sydney Keller, Triad; Kacie Kinnikin, Belleville West; Liz Kuerz, Gibault; Sydney Luedeman, Waterloo; Taylor Mathenia, Belleville West; Emily Mensing, Mater Dei; Lexi Miller, Belleville West; Sophie Monken, Althoff; Grace Niedhardt, Granite City; Lexi Norton, Edwardsville; Carley Olson, Gibault; Allison Pritchard, Edwardsville; Bailey Redden, Belleville West (GK); Alison Riddle, Columbia (GK); Julie Scheiter, Collinsville (GK), Emily Smith, Mascoutah; Sam Stutsman, O’Fallon; Lauren Tolan, Columbia; Taylor Vollmer, Belleville West; Ashlin West, Edwardsville.
Past Players of the Year
2014: Quin Wilkes, O’Fallon
2013: Kat Roe, Collinsville
2012: Kat Roe, Collinsville
2011: Kelsey Dinges, Althoff, and Rachel Tejada, Triad
2010: Megan Pawloski, Althoff
2009: Megan Pawloski, Althoff (1A-2A); Kelli Segobiano, Belleville West (3A)
2008: Taylor Byrd, Columbia (Class A); Megan Pawloski, Althoff (Class AA)
2007: Tessa Gavilsky, Granite City
2006: Tasha Dittamore, Granite City
2005: Katya Hessel, Edwardsville
2004: Alaina Lacopo, Triad
2003: Jessie Bayne, Triad
2002: Jessie Bayne, Triad
2001: Jessie Bayne, Triad
2000: Erika Todd, Granite City
1999: Christen Seaman and Abbie Perez, Belleville East
1998: Tasha Siegel, Collinsville
1997: Michelle Montgomery, Granite City
1996: Connie Meyers, Granite City
1995: Beth Albrecht, O’Fallon