Kolesar Energizes Paraclete

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The senior shortstop was having second thoughts.

Six weeks ago, Jackie Kolesar was mulling the possibility that she had played her last softball game for Paraclete High.

Pneumonia and mononucleosis had cost her the first 20 games of the season, as well as most of her energy.

With a basketball scholarship to Humboldt State awaiting her, she wondered why she should risk her health and college career for a few games.

"Everyone expected me to return, but I really didn't know if I was going to come back," she said. "Of course, I didn't tell [my teammates] that."

Kolesar, among the region's top multi-sport athletes, didn't want to come back only as a cheerleader. The Spirits' most intense competitor already tried that, getting so worked up at a game that she suffered a medical relapse.

Kolesar wanted to be healthy and capable of playing up to the standards that earned her 12 varsity letters and eight All-Alpha League selections in softball, basketball and volleyball.

"I wanted to make an impact and make the team better, not just be out there because the doctor said I could," she said.

Mission accomplished.

Kolesar is batting .500 in seven games since her return, helping Paraclete (24-3) to the brink of its first Southern Section title.

The No. 2-seeded Spirits play No. 4 Orange Lutheran for the Division V championship today at 10 a.m. at Barber Memorial Park in Irvine.

"She has made a world of difference," pitcher Sara Gonzales said. "When she put that uniform back on, you could just feel the intensity of our whole team pick up. Her bat, her glove, everything else she brings, means so much to us."

Batting third, Kolesar is nine for 17 in the playoffs, leading a team that has outscored four opponents, 42-0.

"I don't think we'd be where we are today if it wasn't for Jackie," Coach Margaret Neill said. "She's a winner."

Kolesar proved that during basketball season, when she was the league's most valuable player.

Slowed by bronchitis, she made a game-winning jump shot with four seconds left in a first-round playoff victory over Big Bear.

Her illness worsened, however, and Kolesar sat out the Spirits' second-round loss to Cerritos Valley Christian.

Bronchitis evolved into pneumonia, then mononucleosis, forcing Kolesar to miss classes for two months, almost the entire third quarter.

When she returned, a softball comeback wasn't a priority.

Avoiding another relapse was first. Kolesar made a point to have a healthy diet and got plenty of rest, no small task considering she had a truckload of schoolwork to catch up on in order to graduate with her class.

"I was overwhelmed," said Kolesar, who used school breaks and lunch periods to write essays and complete assignments. "The teachers were really good about it and supportive."

Kolesar caught up and will graduate later this month with a 3.5 grade-point average.

But her health is still a concern.

On Thursday night, while the rest of her class was celebrating graduation night festivities, Kolesar was home, recovering from final exams and resting for the championship game.

"That's the way Jackie is, the ultimate team player," said Neill, in her 22nd season at Paraclete. "You don't get many athletes like that."

This time, there are no doubts.

With a full-time basketball career on the horizon, Kolesar will indeed play her final softball game today.

"I can't put into words how excited I am," she said. "After everything, this is a chance to go out with a bang. I am so glad I came back."

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