Any worries Alek Kleis had about her surgically repaired knee were gone by the time the De Pere girls soccer season ended last month.
All that was left was another dominating year by the senior forward.
Kleis, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee in a regional final against West De Pere in 2014, looked the same as she did before sustaining the first significant injury of her career.
She scored 21 goals, just four fewer than her junior season. But she also had a career-high 16 assists, which was tied for 18th most in the state.
Kleis helped the Redbirds win the Fox River Classic Conference championship and reach a WIAA Division 1 sectional championship game, which they lost to eventual state champion D.C. Everest.
Her goal was to reach the state tournament, but it’s difficult to complain much about her comeback season.
“I feel it is a lot more rewarding, only because I worked a lot harder to recover from the injury and get back to the same strengths as I had last year,” said Kleis, who is Press-Gazette Media’s girls soccer player of the year for the second straight season. “It was nice to have more assists this year than last year, because I knew I was helping my team just as much I was helping myself.”
Kleis had either a goal or an assist in 19 of De Pere’s 28 games as she worked her way back to 100 percent throughout the season.
She scored two goals in a game three times, including back-to-back games against Manitowoc and Appleton West in May. She also scored three goals and had two assists during regional and sectional play.
Kleis was named the FRCC player of the year, one season after she was the league’s offensive player of the year.
“I was really happy with my team, we worked so hard throughout the whole year,” Kleis said. “Yeah, it sucked that we didn’t get to go to state, but I’m happy that the team that did beat us won state.”
Kleis will now prepare to play for the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh this season. She reports to the school on Aug. 18 and already knows a few of her new teammates, including Green Bay Preble standout Kendra Jepson.
“I’m excited because I get to meet new people and play different teams from different states,” Kleis said. “I get to go to California in the fall.
“But I’m really nervous, because it is a new team and it’s a higher level of soccer.”
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @scottvenci