Plum’s Kelly balances sports, music as key cog on soccer team

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Friday, August 9, 2019 | 8:54 PM


Cole Kelly does his best to split his time for his two passions — soccer and music — because he loves them equally.

Kelly, a rising senior at Plum, was an All-WPIAL defender last year and plays saxophone in the marching band. Every once in a while, the disciplines nearly overlap.

“There are some days were I’ll have a soccer game on a Friday afternoon, and afterwards I’ll jump in the car and go to the football game and jump on the field for halftime,” Kelly said. “There are also some times where I have to run from one practice to another.”

It can be a hectic schedule, but Kelly wouldn’t want it any other way.

Entering his senior season, he is ready to do soccer and band at a high level one final time.

Kelly has started at center back for the Mustangs since he was a freshman. He is paired at center back with next-door neighbor Dom Chapkis.

The Mustangs have a new coach this season in Raf Kolankowski, but it’s a familiar face for Kelly.

Kolankowski, who takes over for Anthony Russo, was the JV coach and a varsity assistant the last few years and was involved with the youth programs while Kelly was coming up.

“It’s come full-circle, because Raf has been my coach for 10 years,” Kelly said. “We’ve always had a good connection. Both of his sons, Tyler and Luke, are on the team, and I’ve always felt like a third son to Raf and I think he’d think the same thing about that as well.”

Kolankowski has watched Kelly’s growth from youth leagues. He is someone he can trust on defense in any situation.

“I would put him up against any defender in Quad-A,” Kolankowski said. “He’s a special talent that we have been fortunate to have at Plum the last four years. Cole is one of those guys in the back line that make you feel comfortable. There are some guys you have that sometimes make you wonder if they’re going to make it or not, but with Cole you don’t have to worry about it. He rarely makes mistakes, and if he does he has the speed and skill to make up for it.”

Kelly has been playing an instrument basically as long as he has been playing soccer. Aside from playing saxophone in marching band, he plays oboe in concert band. He performed oboe at State Band at the Pennsylvania Lions State Convention last year in Pittsburgh and is hopeful to perform again this year when the convention is at the Kalahari Resort at Pocono.

Kelly said he is considering majoring in music in college and would like to continue playing soccer.

He is gearing up to help the Mustangs vie for a fourth consecutive playoff berth and a breakthrough in the first round.

Kelly still draws plenty of incentive from two years ago when Plum was eliminated 2-1 in overtime by Upper St. Clair on a controversial finish where the winning goal was scored by a player who was offsides, but the call was missed.

Kelly had to sub out momentarily because of a cramp and was ready to re-enter the game on the next whistle, but he had to watch the bitter moment unfold on the sidelines.

“That’s definitely a motivation,” Kelly said. “I feel like we have a chance to win our first playoff game this year, but the whole thing is getting to that first playoff game. We can’t think about that now, because we have to do the legwork to get there. That’s certainly a personal goal of mine.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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