Kelly Bohling is one of the top defenders in the FCIAC. A senior tri-captain for the Staples girls soccer team, she was a Second Team All-FCIAC selection for the second straight year at sweeper.

"It feels awesome and it's always a great honor," Bohling said.

The coaches around the state thought highly of her and selected Bohling to play in the Senior All-Star game. However, she's still recovering from an injury and didn't want to risk further harming it in an All-Star game.

"I was honored to be nominated but disappointed I couldn't play in it," Bohling said. "I didn't want to risk injuring myself because I hope to play in college."

Staples finished the season 13-5-3, its best year since 1995, with its sweeper player a major role in it.

"Kelly was a strong asset to the team in the backfield," Lady Wreckers Coach Nikki Ross said. "You could always count on her to hustle back using her speed and help out a teammate. She has a good eye for the field and is able to make quick, smart decisions."

Not many players make varsity as a freshman but being the high caliber player she is, Bohling made the team that year. She got a lot of playing time that year before becoming a starter sophomore year.

"It's awesome being a three-year starter because I got to work with many great girls," Bohling said. "Making the varsity as a freshman helped me develop as a player."

Although she became renowned for her defense, Bohling played offense during her formative years. One day, when she was in sixth or seventh grade, her premier coach inserted her on defense as a joke.

Evidently, the coach had great instincts because Bohling thrived there and saw defense was where she belonged.

"Ever since, I loved it and never stopped playing it," Bohling said. "I guess [I thrive on defense] because I'm physical and aggressive and my speed helps me too. I like chasing down opponents. I'm not the most skilled player but defense is the position for me to help me to balance everything out."

At 5-5, she's one of the smallest sweepers in the league. What Bohling lacks in size, she more than compensates for it with her pluckiness and determination.

"Growing up, I had two brothers and I was the youngest in the family," Bohling said. "I always had to hold my own with my brothers and that made me tough."

Possessing speed increases her effectiveness as a defender because this enables her to catch her opponent. Bohling credits her genetics for her quickness.

"I got fast from my mom and older brother Ryan," she said. "My mom ran marathons and I got my endurance from her and Ryan is quick and I'm built like him."

In soccer, the sweeper is the last line of defense, sans the goalie. Therefore, the sweeper has a lot of responsibility, which makes it a pressure-packed position. Her ability to remain undaunted enables her to remain calm and successfully handle her responsibilities.

"My defense does all the hard work and make it easier for me," Bohling said. "They mark and I just sweep. I don't have to move much to make the play. I never felt pressure because I played with great defenders. [Senior] Lauren Kratky, [junior] Shannon Lesch and [sophomore] Siri Andrews are great defenders and [junior] Jessie Ambrose is an outstanding goalie. I'm the last person for the offense to get by [before reaching the goalie] and it's easy to see everything."

Defenders usually don't generate headlines because they don't do the glamourous things, such as scoring. Nevertheless, what a defender does is just as integral, if not more so, than what a striker does.

Bohling, who is a top defender, was a difference-maker in many games. Knowing her prowess, she's unfazed by the lack of headlines her play creates.

"It doesn't bother me," Bohling said. "I play soccer for soccer and the most important thing is winning. I play the best for my team, which is all that really matters to me."

One thing she perfected on defense is the slide tackles.

"I did it one day and I saw it comes natural to me," Bohling said. "It's easier to slide tackle than to chase girls down the sidelines."

Life in the pitch began for her at age 5. She played recreationally before moving up to travel and ultimately, a premier team.

"When I was young, I started playing in kindergarten," Bohling said. "I fell in love with the sport. It's a sport I always loved and I love the game."

During the winter, she runs indoor track. Her events are the 300-meter dash and the 4x200-meter relay, which she earned All-FCIAC in last year. Freshman year, she did outdoor track but stopped sophomore year because she saw it conflicted with premier soccer.

"I chose track because I like working out," Bohling said. "I like being on a relay team and I love doing it. If I didn't play soccer in the spring, I would do outdoor track as well."

Leadership is one of her strengths as she was selected to lead the team, which had nine seniors on it.

"It's definitely an honor to be nominated by my coach," Bohling said. "I love the other captains and it's another plus for soccer."

As captain, Bohling leads by example through her work ethic. She also leads verbally by instructing her teammates and expressing herself when it's warranted.

"Setting a good example is the best way for the younger players to learn," Bohling said. "I'm not shy."

Ross said, "Kelly led the team at practice and in games. She was able to give constructive criticism to her teammates in order to help them improve."

Academically, she's an honors student. Social studies is her favorite subject.

"I think it's a lot easier to do homework when I do a sport because when I have two hours to get my homework done, I do better than when I have eight," Bohling says. "I do better because I don't procrastinate."

Next year, she hopes to play soccer for a Division III school. Bohling knows in order to play well at the collegiate level, she'll have to elevate her game. She also hopes to run track in college as well.

"I have to keep on working hard on the field and in the classroom and hopefully, I can achieve my goals," Bohling said.

Ross is confident her former sweeper will succeed.

"Kelly will be a great collegiate player," Ross said. "She brings a lot to the table as far as her soccer skills and team skills. We will miss her here at Staples but I know she will do big things and I wish her a lot of luck."