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Normal West's Braffet tops All-Intercity soccer team
Normal West's Kayla Braffet kicks the ball in front of Normal Community's Jil Hedrick on May 24, 2007, during the second half of the Class AA Mahomet-Seymour Sectional Championship match in Mahomet. (Pantagraph/Carlos T. Miranda)

NORMAL - Ask Kayla Braffet to a social event and the five words you're most likely to hear are "I can't. I have soccer."

And soccer has her.

The Normal West High School senior-to-be plays soccer nearly year round, which she says is manageable for one reason: her teammates.

"I don't think I'd be playing this sport if not for my teammates and who I'm with," said the star selected as the Pantagraph Area Girls Soccer Player of the Year.

"Even if I join a new team, I get lucky and have really great girls to work with."

The Normal West girls have worked with a player who has scored 106 career goals to rank 28th in state history and notched 68 career assists to tie for 16th in state history.

Braffet led the Intercity this year with 28 assists and ranked second in goals with 35 as the Wildcats went 24-3 to reach the Class AA state tournament for the first time in school history.

Similar numbers next season would move her into the top 10 in state history in both categories.

"It would be really cool if that happens," said Braffet, previously unaware of her state rankings.

Normal West coach Reza Ghasemi said Braffet and teammate Rachel Wright would already be atop the state record book if he didn't forbid his girls to shoot after they take a seven-goal lead.

Even with that restriction, the Wildcats outscored foes, 133-8, this year.

"They don't want to embarrass anybody on the other side," he said. "We could go to 15 or 20 goals. I don't want to do that. They don't want to do that."

Braffet, who will sign with South Dakota State, appreciates her coach's sportsmanship.

"There is no need for (running up the score)," she said. "Everyone at the game can see who the better team was. Even a score like 4-0, I consider that a blowout because it's unlikely they are going to come back."

Braffet's statistics might be even better if she were required to carry more of the scoring load, but she believes good teammates help her stats rather than hurt them.

Those teammates include Wright, a Murray State-bound senior-to-be who has 86 career goals and 71 assists, and senior-to-be Natalee Brown, who led the Intercity this year with 37 goals. They have helped Normal West go 68-6-1 the past three seasons.

Ghasemi said he can also make a case for Wright or Brown being the area player of the year, but he also notes Braffet was the leading vote getter for all-sectional honors.

"She's a very unselfish player," he said.

Braffet believes an assist requires more work than a goal.

"The goal is usually just a nice dink-in type thing," she said. "A lot of goals aren't really earned. It's more if you made the correct run."

Braffet has been on the run since fourth grade because of older sister, Meghan, a distance runner for the University of Maryland.

"I run every day I don't have soccer except Sunday," said Braffet, the No. 1 runner for the Normal West cross country team the past three years.

Ghasemi marvels at her running ability during 80-minute soccer matches.

"She is like a machine," he said. "It seems like she never gets tired."

Ghasemi also applauds her skill with either foot. Her biggest improvement this year was her ability to pass or score with her head.

"That's one thing that put her head and shoulders above the rest," he said. "She can fight in the air. Her jumping has really improved. She must have a 30-inch vertical jump."

Braffet hopes to continue improving her play in the air this summer with the Elgin-based Kickers United Football Club. She has played travel soccer since age 10 after taking up the game at age 4.

Travel soccer for Braffet this week meant trips to Elgin Monday, Tuesday and Thursday for practice along with a trip to Indianapolis Wednesday and then back to Indy Saturday through next Tuesday.

"I don't have much of a life," quipped the Normal West forward, who plays outside mid for her club.

She has come to view long trips for soccer practice and games as "social hour."

"That's when I catch up on my gossip," she laughed.


All-Intercity Girls Soccer Team

Kayla Braffet

Normal West

Junior

All-state recruit of South Dakota State led Intercity in assists (28) and ranked second in goals (35)

Rachel Wright

Normal West

Junior

All-stater bound for Murray State ranked second in Intercity in assists (27) and third in goals (24)

Natalee Brown

Normal West

Junior

All-sectional star led Intercity in goals (37) and ranked eighth in assists (nine)

Kelly Shulman

Normal Community

Sophomore

All-stater led 18-3 Ironmen with 21 goals and ranked second on team in assists (11)

Kelsey Porter

Bloomington

Senior

All-sectional star ranked sixth among Intercity scorers (20 goals) and had five assists

Sarah Tretter

Normal Community

Senior

All-sectional midfielder provided Intercity champions with 10 assists and eight goals

Jessica Benchley

Normal West

Junior

All-Big 12 star had seven goals and ranked fourth in the Intercity in assists (12)

Stephanie Horvath

Normal West

Junior

Elon recruit had 10 goals and five assists despite missing five games because of injury

Jenna Wampler

University High

Freshman

All-sectional performer helped 9-6 Pioneers with 11 goals and three assists

Jessica Rolfs

Normal Community

Sophomore

All-sectional first team goalie allowed 12 goals in 21 games for a 0.57 goals against average

Beth Walther

Bloomington

Sophomore

All-sectional and all-Big 12 standout led team in goals (20) and assists (10)

Sophie Somers

University High

Senior

Played several positions and scored six goals in last eight games

Honorable mention

Bloomington: Emily White, Sadie Delashmit, Sara Harmann

Calvary Baptist: Sarah McCorkle, Lizzy Howerton

Central Catholic: Brittany Brady, Haleigh Stopa, Michelle Mueller, Vanessa Herr

Normal Community: Meg Rogers, Alisha Ideran, Michelle Bender

Normal West: Michelle Peterson, Kirsten Boesen, Rachel Irwin

University High: Paige Knippenberg, Liz Phipps

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