Kitty Besserman was expected to be one of many star players on the field this season for the Collinsville High girls soccer team.
But Besserman, who has signed with Indiana State, suffered an ACL tear in her left knee in the offseason, ending her senior season before it began.
Besserman has tried to make the most of it. If she has any intentions of one day being a head coach, she sneaked an early peak at what a career like that might be like.
Obviously, this is not a fun time for me. Sometimes I get down because this is my senior year. But I am so proud of the team and what they have done. I couldn’t ask for anything more. I can’t say any negative words about this team right now. They have been amazing. They haven’t played for themselves, they’ve played for each other.
Injured Collinsville senior soccer player Kitty Besserman
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“It’s been interesting,” Besserman said in a telephone interview Wednesday night from Terre Haute, Ind., where she was participating in orientation programs.
“I was with Coach (Clay) Smith the entire time and we would go over ideas on what to do with the team, like trying something new,” she said. “It was so cool to see that point of view of coaching. I felt like I was a coach. It’s something I might want to do later. My dad (Jeff) was a coach ... and it’s something I want to do.”
Besserman said the coaching perspective is far different from a player’s.
“As a player, you’re pretty much watching your own position, trying to figure out what you can do better, what marks you can be making,” Besserman said. “As a coach, you’re looking at the game as a whole – your team, all 11 players connecting with each other.”
Smith said having Besserman nearby has been “phenomenal.”
“She bounces things off me, she bounces things off Coach (Rob) Lugge and Coach (Jodie)Munoz,” Smith said. “She gives us ideas. She comes back and relays information (from players) that we can use and share. She’s going to be missed dearly next year.”
Besserman’s knee is almost healed. She expects to receive medical clearance to practice within the next two weeks. She will be ready to play for the Sycamores this fall.
But even as her knee heals, Besserman’s heart still hurts. There’s nowhere she would rather be than on the field with her Collinsville teammates as they play in the Class 3A state tournament Friday and Saturday in Naperville.
“Obviously, this is not a fun time for me,” Besserman said. “Sometimes I get down because this is my senior year. But I am so proud of the team and what they have done. I couldn’t ask for anything more. Some of the girls that have stepped up ... I can’t say any negative words about this team right now. They have been amazing. They haven’t played for themselves, they’ve played for each other.”
Smith has seen how badly Besserman misses being on the field.
“I know this is very hard for her,” he said. “It absolutely kills her. I don’t think there’s been a game that’s gone by that I haven’t seen tears welt in her eyes, only because she misses it so much and knows how much she could help the team if she was out there.
“But the good news is she’s got a great future ahead of her. Hopefully, we can give her one final good ride in her high-school career and make her a part of it as much as we can.”
Junior midfielder Andrea Frerker, for one, believes Besserman could one day be a solid coach.
“She’s good at it,” Frerker said. “She gives a lot of ideas to our coaches and she helps us out on the field, too. It’s good to hear a player on the sidelines and not just a coach because she knows what we’re going through. She’s a part of the team, but at the end of the game, there’s always a little piece of her heart that wishes she was playing.”
Holten said: “She wants to be here so bad. She tells us every time. But she’s been here. Every single practice, every single game, she’s been right by our side.”
Besserman expects the Kahoks (21-1-2) to win the tournament. Last year, Collinsville reached state but lost both games to Neuqua Valley and Barrington.
“The way our team has connected this year and the amount of offense it has, I can’t see a team really beating us,” Besserman said. “We have so much heart this year because we’re so mad about what happened last year. We want to be able to prove ourselves.”
Devine back in time
Junior forward Tayler Devine, whose 17 goals rank second on the team to Holten’s 23, didn’t play last season as she took a needed year off from soccer.
“I had been playing since I was little,” Devine said Thursday. “I kind of needed a break. I just needed some time off. I feel like it was a good progression for me to go through that.”
Devine returned this spring and has made a profound impact on a balanced Kahoks offense that can hurt opponents from anywhere on the field. Devine banged in two goals Tuesday in Collinsville’s 4-1 win over Lincoln-Way North in the Joliet Super-Sectional.
Devine is glad to be back with the Kahoks and she’s convinced she will be ready for the state tournament, pressure and all.
“We’ve all played since we were so little,” Devine said. “I feel like, going into big things, we’ve been places before. Not just with high school, but with our club teams and anything else. We’ve been there, so we kind of know what that’s like. If you just play the game you’ve always loved, it should just be fun.”
Nerves won’t be an issue, junior midfielder Alynnah O’Leary said.
“It was a good experience last year, but it was a downer losing both games,” she said. “This year, we all kind of know what’s going on up there and our expectations are higher this year. I think we have a good shot.”
Richardson’s aim is true
Senior defender Chayse Richardson has 10 assists for the Kahoks. A deadly flip throw is behind most of them.
Richardson, a Missouri S&T recruit, runs forward with the ball, pins it to the turf, flips her body and releases the ball into the box for her teammates to finish.
Richardson, a former gymnast, said strength and accuracy are the keys.
“I have improved my strength,” Richardson said. “The preseason workouts that we did this year have helped with my throw-ins and on the field.”
Richardson said she was 7 or 8 when she began experimenting with the flip throw.
“I saw some girls doing it when I was out practicing with my dad (Jerry),” Richardson said. “I started doing cartwheels and handstands on the ball.”
For most opponents, a throw-in from the offensive third is just the beginning of an potential scoring play. For the Kahoks, it’s a means to an end.
“It’s huge,” Smith said. “It brings another form of attack to our game because anything (up to) 30 yards out is going to get to the far post, to the keeper, depending on conditions.”