Kickin’ It New School

Shelby Kondelka happily plays the ball to a teammate during practice on Wednesday, Sept. 21.
Shelby Kondelka happily plays the ball to a teammate during practice on Wednesday, Sept. 21.

Once she started, Shelby Kondelka never wanted to stop playing soccer. Since she was five years old, Kondelka has played the sport and has become one of the most talked about athletes on the New Paltz Women’s Soccer team.

“I always loved it and I knew that I definitely wanted to play at the college level,” said Kondelka, a third-year. “Both of my older sisters played soccer in college. My oldest sister played at Utica and my other sister played at Mercy.”

As a senior in high school, Kondelka was initially recruited by SUNY Plattsburgh, a school known for its athletic program. Women’s Head Coach Colleen Bruley said that she had not originally tried to recruit Kondelka while she was in high school, but found out about her through other girls on the team.

“I didn’t hear about Shelby until her freshman year,” said Bruley. “I heard about her because she was friends with our old Captain Emily Buckner and Emily’s mom was talking to me about how they had a good friend who was at Plattsburgh and she wasn’t happy…and then she was just kind of like ‘We’ve got to get Shelby here, we’ve got to get Shelby here.’ And then they must have said something to her and then she contacted me. And then she came for a visit and decided that she wanted to come here.”

Kondelka did not play soccer as a first-year student at Plattsburgh, and said that she felt like Plattsburgh wasn’t the right option for her to begin with, not to mention that she always liked New Paltz and the transfer to the school allowed her to be closer to home.

“I ended up not playing for the team and I didn’t like anything about it,” said Kondelka. “I wanted to be closer to home.”

While Kondelka was happy to be out of Plattsburgh and ready to settle in New Paltz, she said that adjusting to a new team was initially difficult and had its hardships.

“It was hard trying to fit in with the girls because they’ve been with one another already,” said Kondelka. “I don’t know how they play and they don’t know how I play and just trying to become friends with them and just fit in with the team was challenging.”

While initially a challenge, Kondelka was able to assimilate herself into the New Paltz dynamic and in her first year on the team was a contributor to the team’s success. However, Kondelka herself is no stranger to individual prestige. At the recent Red Scarlet Raider Classic Tournament the team participated in the weekend of Sept 9, Kondelka was named to the All-Tournament team as well as MVP of the tournament. Last year, Kondelka was named team MVP and lead the Hawks with nine goals, including two against the team’s upset win over SUNY Geneseo.

Bruley said that when Kondelka is in shape, she is a “huge” threat as a forward.

“She has made us more of an offensive threat,” said Bruley. “We haven’t had a true goal-scorer in a while and typically, she’s not the type of player I would put as a goal scorer. She’s more of the assist and playmaker because she can put nice balls through and have good control with the ball. For the past couple of years that we’ve had her we’ve been looking for someone to be able to play off of her.”

In her second year on the team, Kondelka said that she has adjusted well and that she loves playing for Bruley and for the team. She said that her family, now that she is at school close by, attends almost every home game the Hawks  have. The adjustment has left her incredibly satisfied and she said she is happy to be able to play soccer again.

“I couldn’t imagine not playing soccer,” said Kondelka.  “My year at Plattsburgh not playing soccer killed me. I had to come here. I had to play.”