Sports

Female Athlete of the Year: Callaghan makes a habit of leadership

Kelsey Callaghan helped guide the Wolves to two state-playoff appearances in both soccer and basketball in three seasons. She will play at the University of Western Montana next season.  - File photo
Kelsey Callaghan helped guide the Wolves to two state-playoff appearances in both soccer and basketball in three seasons. She will play at the University of Western Montana next season.
— image credit: File photo

Past recipients
2010: Riley Dopps
2009: Stephanie Osterdahl
2008: Kaileigh Westermann
2007: Madison Rousell
2006: Madison Rousell
2005: Brittany Miller
2004: Stephanie Davison

Succcessful.

The word probably best describes Kelsey Callaghan’s athletic career at South Kitsap.

Callaghan played three years of basketball and soccer for the Wolves. In both sports, she reached the state tournament twice.

But her contributions on the field and hardwood went beyond that. Consider that two of South’s three regular-season losses in basketball occurred when Callaghan was sidelined with a knee injury. When she returned, she guided the Wolves to their first 20-win season in a decade.

“Most people could tell we were a different team when Kelsey was there,” said Mark Lutzenhiser, who coached the girls basketball team the last three seasons. “She was a great leader. The kids were successful on the court mostly because she was there.”

For those reasons, Callaghan is the Port Orchard Independent’s Female Athlete of the Year.

“I feel great about it,” Callaghan said of the honor. “All of my hard work is coming together.”

As a defender, Callaghan helped the Wolves reach the state playoffs in soccer as a sophomore and junior. During her first season, South defeated Bellarmine Prep for the first time in program history. They swept the Lions the following year and made it to the second round of the Class 4A state tournament.

Callaghan, a defender, said about the only disappointment this season was not returning to state. The Wolves lost in a shootout, 2-1, against Kentwood in the West Central District Tournament.

It also left her with a difficult decision. Callaghan waited until March to decide to play collegiate basketball — she is headed to the University of Western Montana — instead of soccer.

“That definitely was the toughest decision of my life so far,” Callaghan said. “I honestly love both sports equally. I’ve really taken off in basketball and grown to love it even more. I decided that probably was the best choice.”

Callaghan’s father, John, was not surprised by the decision. He joked that his daughter was holding a basketball just minutes after her birth.

Through junior high, the younger Callaghan scouted opponents with her father. Even though that did not continue the last three seasons as both were busy with their respective teams, there were noticeable similarities on the court.

Expressions. Gestures. Mannerisms.

To the father, “That’s cool.”

To the daughter, “That’s embarrassing.”

Then the younger Callaghan relented a bit.

“He rubs off on me a little bit,” she admitted.

That might be an understatement. Callaghan plans to major in physical education and earn her teaching certification, similar to the path taken by her father at Eastern Washington before he returned to South.

Perhaps Callaghan might even inherit the girls basketball job from her uncle, Mike Hulet, who succeed Lutzenhiser in May.

“I would love that,” Callaghan said. “That’s the ultimate goal.”

It also is a discussion for the future. Later this summer, she will head to Dillon with the same goal she had when she stepped onto the hardwood at South as a player for the first time — to become the Bulldogs’ starting point guard.

“Of course I’m going to compete for it,” Callaghan said. “I’m hoping to steal away the point guard’s role when I get there.”

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