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Springfield record-setter happily adjusts to a return to play

Kylee Kosek scored the 150th goal of her varsity career in Wednesday's game against Waterloo.

NEW MIDDLETOWN — "Normalcy" is not a word high school athletes use often when being interviewed.

Springfield High School senior Kylee Kosek is not your typical high school athlete.

Kosek scored five goals in Wednesday’s 10-2 victory over Waterloo, including the 150th of her four-year varsity career.

For a while this summer, no one was sure that Kosek would get the chance to surpass 150. 

“It feels so good to be back on the field playing,” Kosek said. “I’ve never gone this long not playing a soccer game. Six months [of not competing],” she said, “that’s almost unheard of for me.”

Actually, with 22 goals this season in six games, Kosek now has 153.

In March, Kosek had finished her third basketball season and was getting ready for her third varsity track and field experience.

But on March 12, the Ohio High School Athletic Association shut down all high school sports as Gov. Mike DeWine was preparing to close schools because of the coronavirus pandemic.

As spring became summer, no one was certain if competitive sports would return when schools reopened.

On Aug. 19, DeWine signed an amended state health order that allowed the return of competitive sports of football and soccer.

“I’ve never been more excited,” said Kosek of getting to play her senior season. “To go through all those months of conditioning in the summer and then to start mandatory practices and for the longest time to not know if all the hard work my entire team had put in was going to pay off, if we were going to get to show people what were trying to do, what we wanted to do, what we had been striving to do for so long. 

“This is one of the strongest teams we’ve ever had," she added. "I have high hopes for us as we get closer to the tournament.”

The six-month break from competition was not easy.

“It was really hard for me,” she said of closing the school in favor of virtual learning and the elimination of the track and field season. “To go from doing everything to doing nothing was a big adjustment."

She found salvation in quarantine when her club soccer coach (Greg Mitchell of Soccer Vision Academy in Niles) created Zoom workouts. 

“We’d go outside and set up our phones and join in through Zoom and he would put us through a practice just like we would have in-person,” she said. 

“It was my escape at that time, giving me some sort of normalcy.”

Springfield reopened on Wednesday for in-person learning and Kosek described conditions as “hot, a little toasty” because of a lack of air conditioning and the addition of facemasks.

“It was rough at times,” she said of the first day of school since March. “I’ve been ready to get back into a routine for a couple of weeks now.

Kosek is one of four seniors on the Springfield girls soccer team. The others are Gianna Latronica, Lexi Wonner and Ava DiMaiolo. 

The Tigers are off to a perfect 6-0 start which should surprise no one. Kosek's freshman team started 7-0. Last year, she said the Tigers, who advanced to the Division III regional tournament at Canton Central Catholic, won at least their first 10 games.

The Tigers also made the regional semifinals during her freshman season. That road trip was to Green in Summit County near Akron.

“For a lot of people, [playing in an unfamiliar stadium]’ might be nerve-wracking, but to me it’s one of the best feelings in the world, to be able to play on a big stage in a bigger stadium,” she said. “To experience that atmosphere, I find it so thrilling. That’s my dream — to play in a big stadium like that and have people watching me and cheering me on, knowing my hometown is behind us."

In August, she committed to attend Slippery Rock University next year and play women’s soccer. She’s debating whether to major in pre-law or exercise science. She was won over there when she attended a soccer camp two summers ago.

“I just fell instantly in love with the coaches and the campus and the players who were there and the way [head coach Jessica Giegucz] ran the camp,” Kosek said.“The relationships she has with her players, I just instantly knew that I loved every second of it.”

Not surprisingly, her favorite subject “is probably math” (that’s a lot of goals to count), but she has a soft spot for the AP History class she took last year taught by Kory Snyder.

“He made me love the class, it was a really hard class and he made me love every second of it.”

Another favorite teacher of Kosek’s is Sarah Friedenberger who taught her Algebra I in eighth-grade and is one of the track coaches. 

“She’s very encouraging, she always pushes us in everything that we do,” Kosek said. “Always very understanding. She was very good at bridging the gap from over the summer of what we had missed.”

Kosek said it’s normally a small class (six-to-seven eighth-grade students) taking algebra in advance, but that year there were 14. 

“She loved us, anything we needed at any time. When she thought we weren’t pushing ourselves to the best of our abilities, she would talk about how [well she thought] we could do. I found that so encouraging,” Kosek said. “It was very inspiring and a good way to help younger students develop good habits."

Kosek has nine varsity letters. Although the track and field season was canceled last spring because of the pandemic, Kosek said athletes were awarded letters.

Asked if soccer is her favorite, Kosek replies, “Absolutely.”

“When I was little, my cousins used to baby-sit and they were real big into soccer,” she said. “Whenever they would come over, we’d go outside and mess around.”

At 4, she first played recreational soccer.

Her father, Justin, is her varsity coach, but it wasn’t always that way. The thing she remembers about playing when she was so young is that her Dad was happy watching with the other parents.

“[Then], my Dad didn’t want to coach,” she said. “He would say, ‘No, I’m not coaching, I don’t know enough.’”

That pattern held for several years, but then Justin changed his mind and began coaching her travel team when she was in the fifth-grade.

In 2014, he became Springfield’s varsity head coach.

In her junior season, Kosek shattered the school record, finishing with 131 goals. Cierra Latronica had the old record of 83 goals and Kosek passed that mark early last fall.

In soccer, Kosek normally plays up front for the Tigers. 

“I can play anywhere, [depends] on where I’m needed in that game,” she said. 

In basketball, Kosek, someone used to having the soccer ball in her control, splits time at point guard and shooting guard. 

“I prefer point guard, just because I like to have the ball in my hands,” she said.

For track, her running events are the 400, 200 and the 400- and 200-relays. She also competes in the long jump.

She says she has a love/hate relationship with the 400. She enjoys excelling in the race but says “It’s the hardest to train for."

For now, Kosek is focused on soccer as are her other teammates Riley Blakeman, Ella Perry, Mya Argiro, Macey Isaacson, Caitlin Cappelli, Brianna Holt, Grace Venturella, Mary Grace Mason, Kylie Medvec, Emma Sanders, Ave Vecchione, Kaila LaMorticella, Ashley Bellstrom and Brianna Holt.

And enjoying some normalcy.