After a brilliant and extensive soccer career, Kristy Whechel Hartofilis, will be inducted into the Palm Beach County Hall of Fame this March.
As a young girl, surrounded by her two soccer playing older brothers, Kristy Whechel Hartofilis, was drawn to the game.
Seeing her interest soccer, Kristy’s father decided to place her in the recreational soccer leagues of Boca Raton at the age of 6. And as she continued to play the game, it went from being a simple activity to a sport she fell in love with.
During her U-12 year with Team Boca, Kristy also began to play, not only soccer, but volleyball and track for Boca Raton Middle School. But as the years went by, Kristy dropped track and fixed her eyes on soccer and volleyball.
Kristy worked hard, and her abilities allowed her to play up for the fall season with the under-16 team when she was in 8thgrade.
Rocky Orezelli, 49, Kristy’s Coach at both at the U-16 level and at Spanish River High, said that for a player that young, Kristy had a very good work rate.
“She was extremely hard working, athletic and her high work rate was hard to come by with a player that young,” described Rocky.
But one of the moments where her coach was the most shocked with Kristy was when she was a freshman with the U-16 team during the State Cup. Kristy had played the whole game, and though her team was advancing to the State Cup final, her lower leg began to bother her. After going to get it checked out, Kristy came to find out that she played the whole soccer match with a broken fibula.
Unfortunately, the season was over for her. But in her road to recovery, Coach Rocky said that the following season she became completely dominant.
Her second year playing for U-16 Team Boca, Kristy made the Olympic Development Program (ODP) for the US Women’s Youth National Soccer team.
At the same time as she was playing for the US Women’s National ODP team, she was still playing for Spanish River High, on both the soccer and volleyball team, as well as for U-16 Team Boca.
And Kristy continued to impress those who watched her. In the Regional semi-final against Memphis FC, in the hot humid 100 degree weather, Kristy pulled off a game winning save. At the time, a young Cindy Parlow, was a force to be reckoned with. Late in the second half, Coach Rocky recalls when Cindy made a play that put him on the edge of his seat.
Cindy received the ball, beat the defense, and the goalie. As Cindy passes the ball into the back of the net, Kristy appears and clears the ball off of the goal line. “Kristy, and she was tired, sprinted from the offensive half of the field to save the goal,” continued Rocky, “ If she hadn’t saved that, I don’t think we would’ve won that game.”
That year, 1994, Kristy and her Team Boca squad were able to do what was never done before. They made it to the National Championship. “It put Team Boca on the map,” said Kristy as she also explained that their team was honored with a key to the city of Boca Raton that year.
However, in the National Championship final, Kristy and her team lost to the opposition.
“Kristy understood how unusual that chance was, so when she got to the hotel, she went to her room and didn’t change out of uniform for the rest of the day,” recalled Rocky.
Day in and day out, both coaches and teammates, recognized the hard work and dedication that Kristy put into her game. Her talent, raised eyebrows and made her a player to keep your eye on.
As a soccer player, she was all business. The pitch was not somewhere for fun and games. “Kristy didn’t only work on her weaknesses, she worked on everything. She wanted to be a well rounded consistent player, and she was,” described Rocky.
Coaches and teammates, alike, could agree, Kristy didn’t have many weaknesses in her game. They describe her as always dependable, quick, a player who had an extremely high work rate, dominant in the air, with perfect precision and timing; a full package player. She was coach-able and she was a player that you could talk to about game tactics. And with her working on her consistency, “you knew that you were going to get something special every time,” said Coach Rocky. And although Kristy was not a fast player, she was quick and persistent. “You might get by her once but if you don’t get rid of the ball, she’s coming to get you,” explained Coach Rocky as he reminisced on the soccer player that Kristy was.
After the National Championship loss, Kristy wasn’t down for long, she kept training and pushing herself to be better. And former teammate, Allison Hogan, 38, could attest to this.
“It was better to play with her, than against her. And having to mark her,you could forget about it,” said Allison. Kristy and Allison played together from the age of 13 to when they were 20 years old.
Allison was on the same Team Boca team, however they went to different schools. So when Spanish River would go against Boca High, Allison knew that covering Kristy was not going to be an easy task.
“She was all business on the field, so there was no joking around on the pitch,” recalled Allison.
Beyond being just a teammate they remained friends throughout the years. Kristy and Allison, along with two others, Jill and Kelly, were always together and won six State Championships together.
“Kristy was always the first on the field, but would always be the one to get the team together and ready before every game, she was the leader, and she lead by example,” Allison reiterated. And her Spanish River High Coach Rocky says the same thing, “She always put the team above herself.”
Although Kristy was average height, what really shocked coaches was her vertical jump. With the height of Kristy’s jump, it made her not only good on the volleyball court but also made her completely dominant in the air, explained Coach Rocky.
Her Junior year came along and Kristy found herself struggling to keep up with so many activities, so with her eyes fixed on soccer, Kristy said goodbye to volleyball. “It became hard to keep up with the high level of competition, on the soccer and volleyball side,” said Kristy about the decision to focus all of her efforts towards soccer, at Spanish River High.
With all sights on soccer her senior year, Kristy lead her Spanish River High team to the State Semi-Finals. In her leading way, she not only pushed herself but also pushed those around her to do better, as Coach Rocky said, “She lead and pushed them the right way.”
But Kristy’s soccer career did not stop when she graduated high school. She kept looking forward and planning ahead.
Her senior year of high school, Kristy signed on to play with the Duke University Blue Devils. At her time with the Blue Devils, she was the first Duke women’s soccer player to make All-ACC honors all four years. While leading the team as captain, Kristy made the Atlantic Coast Conference first team in 1996, along with landing a place on the NSCAA All American team, that same year. During her time with Duke she got the opportunity to play internationally because she was also playing for the Women’s National U-19/20 league.
But with her time in college coming to an end, she wasn’t quite ready to hang up her cleats. Her and her coaches looked into places where she could play overseas, in the semi-pro leagues. The opportunity arose in Denmark and Kristy packed her bags for the new chapter that was ahead of her.
During her time in Denmark, there were talks that an American professional league was going to start up, so she kept investing in her game.
However, six months into the season, Kristy ended up injuring her ankle which lead to her coming back home to Boca.
With rumors still in the air of a professional league, she took care of her ankle and kept practicing.
In the year of down time, where Kristy was tending to her injury, she went back to Spanish River high, this time as a coach. And this was the first time that a player who made it to the Final 4 came back and coached a team to the Final 4, at Spanish River. And as she coached, Kristy kept her options open, if soccer didn’t work out and the rumors of a new league weren’t true what would she do?
She looked at her options and applied to Graduate Schools, where she was looking to pursue a career in the field of sports management. She applied and was accepted on a scholarship to FSU’s Graduate Program where she would also be the assistant coach for FSU’s women’s soccer team.
But the news came in that the new professional women’s soccer league, the WUSA, was a go, and that the combine was going to be in her home town of Boca Raton.
So Kristy did the combine and was drafted in the 3rd round as 20th overall pick with the New York Power. She was a starter and played defense there during all three years with the NY Power, except for when she was out with a torn ACL injury before the 2003 season. However, because of a lack of funding the WUSA folded at the end of its third season. “It was like losing a job,” said Kristy, “It’s like one day you’re a professional soccer player and the next day the league folded.”
But as always Kristy always had a plan B put in place. During her time recovering from her ACL injury she applied for her real estate license and began to work with the Douglas Elliman, a residential real estate group in New York.
“At that moment, the soccer door was shut. I wasn’t being called for the National Team, I wasn’t going overseas, the door was closed,” reminisced Kristy.
From there, Kristy worked in New York for about 3 years, where she met her husband of now, almost 11 years.
Today Kristy is now living in Boca Raton, with her husband and three children, 2 little girls and the youngest, a little boy.
Since her move, in 2010, Kristy and her brother, Jay Whelchel, opened up Whelchel Partners Real Estate Services, where they focus on commercial real estate transactions in Boca Raton with clients looking to buy, sell or lease commercial property locally.
While juggling her real estate company, Kristy is still involved in soccer as she helps out with her oldest daughter’s Team Boca team.
Source: The Boca Tribune