April 25, 2009 in Washington Voices

Valued teammate

Senior elevates team through hard work
Steve Christilaw Correspondent
J. Rayniak photo

Manchester, center, rallies her teammates before the top of the third inning in the game against Ferris Tuesday.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Morgan Manchester always brings her A game.

The senior is a three-sport standout – earning all-league recognition in soccer, basketball and softball. More important – especially in the Manchester family – she brings that same dedication to the classroom. When the East Valley High School class of 2009 collects their diplomas, Manchester will stand as one of the school’s valedictorians.

“We all play a lot of sports in my family,” Manchester said. “But my mom has always said that studies come first. If I didn’t keep my grades up, I wasn’t going to get to play, so I learned early on to work hard in the classroom.

“I may not have gotten as much sleep as I would have liked, but it’s been worth it.”

That hard work did not go unnoticed.

“Morgan is just an outstanding athlete, and she’s just as outstanding in the classroom,” softball coach Kurt Krauth said. “That will be reason enough for us to miss her once she graduates.

“But as important as all that is, it still doesn’t give you the whole picture. What we’re going to miss most about Morgan is what she brings to the dugout. She’s just an outstanding teammate.”

Krauth said he won’t be the only one in his family to miss Manchester in the East Valley dugout.

“Morgan has been so great to my two daughters – they just love her,” he said. “Morgan is that way with everyone, though.”

It’s been that way since Morgan was brought up to join the Knights as a freshman, Krauth said, and it’s the same story in whatever sport she’s playing at the time.

“Morgan is that rare kind of player who just makes everyone around her a better player,” he said. “She works so hard and plays with such determination that she makes everyone around her that much more focused and play that much harder.”

“In my family we all hate to lose,” Manchester said. “Whatever game we’re playing, we all play to win. And we love to play games, board games, whatever, whenever we get together.”

This, her senior season, is a new experience for Manchester. Throughout her first three seasons at East Valley, Morgan and her sister, Bryanna, played together in whatever sport was in season.

“I think that Morgan and her sister were so good together that people overlooked just how good Morgan was all by herself,” Krauth said. “I don’t think that was entirely fair because they are two entirely different athletes – both of them very good, but different.”

“It took a while to get used to her not being there,” Morgan Manchester said. “I miss her a lot, but she’s made it back for a bunch of games this year and that’s been great.”

Moving to midfield this season to better take advantage of her playmaking skills, Manchester helped lead the Knights into the state Class 3A soccer tournament in the fall, where the team fell to Shorecrest, 1-0, in the first round at Joe Albi Stadium.

For all her hard work, Manchester was tapped for the All-Greater Spokane League second team.

In basketball, Manchester, an all-league first team pick, helped lead the Knights to a .500 regular season record in the tough, Class 4A dominated GSL. Back-to-back losses to Shadle Park and North Central in the district tournament ended their season.

Manchester was a second-team All-GSL pick after her junior softball season and her game has been solid all spring.

“It was a little slow getting into the season this year,” she explained. Last year basketball was in the playoffs, so we were late getting out for softball. This year the weather kept us all practicing inside. The first time we got outside this season was for our first game of the year.”

With two weeks remaining in the season, the Knights are 5-5 and in good shape, she said.

“This year has been a pretty wide-open year,” she said. “We’re starting to swing the bats pretty well right now, and we have a freshman pitcher who has been very consistent.

“We’re not playing our best right now, but you don’t want to peak right now. You want to be playing your best ball at the end of the year.”

Manchester ripped a lead-off home run to start the Knights’ showdown with Ferris Tuesday, then added a two-run double to help key a 6-0 victory over the Saxons.

The end of the year is something Manchester tries hard not to think about right now.

“I thought I was keeping things pretty well under control emotionally,” she said. “I kept it together all year – at least up until we had the end-of-the-year banquet for each sport. That’s when it all hit me that it was all over, that I wasn’t going to play that sport with these teammates any more.

“I’m not looking forward to this last (banquet). This is my last sport of my last season.”

Manchester’s goal is to play both basketball and soccer in college, and she has staked out a few schools where she’d like to give it a shot. Just like at home, however, academics have to come first. With her track record in the classroom, there are academic scholarships awaiting her.

“I want to study veterinary medicine,” she said. “Wherever I go, they have to have the classes I need. After that, I’ll look at what I can do to play sports.”

Contact Steve Christilaw by e-mail at schristilaw@msn.com

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