Senior High midfielder Kara Ellis is 'the player nobody wants to go against'
The senior earned all-state honors last season on a 14-2 Green Wave squad.
EAST GRAND FORKS — For years, Kara Ellis wrote the same phrase on her soccer ball.
"Small but mighty."
She may stand at just 5-foot-2, but the East Grand Forks Senior High central midfielder has become an imposing figure for Green Wave opponents.
"She's tough, she's physical," Senior High coach Jessica Bina said. "She's the player nobody wants to go against. They don't want to mark her. She's relentless. She doesn't want to quit. She's going to fight for every ball. And she can finish.
"Her one-on-one ability is outstanding. She finds the space, she exploits the space and she finishes. Her finishing has developed."
Ellis, who earned second-team all-state honors last season as a junior, is ready to embark on her senior season.
She's already had conversations with Bina about staying on the field for the entirety of games without any breaks. She's offered to periodically move up to forward if necessary.
"I'm just excited because we didn't lose very many people from last year," said Ellis, who served as a team captain as a junior. "We have a lot of young players coming back, so I think we'll be pretty good this season. I'm also excited because it's my senior year, and for me as a player, I've already noticed I've improved just over the summer."
- Also see: Greater Grand Forks soccer capsules
Last season, Senior High entered the Section 8AA semifinal against Little Falls with a 14-1 record. But in the first 25 minutes of that game, first-team all-state forward Brooklyn Sayler suffered a torn ACL and Ellis sustained an ankle injury. The Green Wave lost 3-1 at home.
"It was really tough," Ellis said. "When both of your captains get hurt, it kind of brings everyone down."
That loss has been motivating for the Green Wave, who lost graduating seniors Sayler and Macie Stanislawski up front, but will return most everyone else.
Also motivating: Senior High opens the season against Little Falls.
"They really want it," Bina said. "That's exciting. We've been really young the last few years. Now, we're getting older and have a team of juniors and seniors."
Ellis is the leader — on and off the field.
This summer, she has spent time coaching a 10U team in Grand Forks and officiating youth soccer games.
On the field, she's steadily developed into a two-way threat capable of producing offense. She scored six goals and added eight assists last season for the Green Wave.
"I started off pretty young," said Ellis, who has been playing varsity since eighth grade. "Over the years, I've gotten more confident — confident enough to take shots. I took a lot of free kicks for goals, too."
Ellis makes a big impact off the ball, too.
During practices, Bina runs a drill where she throws a ball and two players race after it and battle for it. No matter how far Bina throws it away from Ellis, she always seems to come away with it.
"She's the kid you want representing your program," Bina said. "She plays like a pitbull. Other teams hate her because she plays so hard. She's going to play that hard no matter what team it is. She's feisty."
College recruiting is picking up for Ellis, too. She's narrowed it down to a few schools and will take some visits this fall.
"I think she's got a lot of good years ahead of her," Bina said. "If I was a college coach, I'd definitely want her on my roster. You just don't know what you have until you have her on your team. Some college program is going to really benefit from Kara Ellis."