‘Always remembered’: Concord girls’ soccer community comes together to honor Kelsey Mayer
|Published: 09-28-2023 6:15 PM
An air of sadness hung over Memorial Field on Tuesday night, with feelings of despair, but also deep appreciation. A community still in shock, six months after tragedy.
Kelsey Mayer, who graduated from Concord High School in 2022 and played on the girls’ soccer team, died this March, just three weeks away from her 19th birthday. Her Chevy Cruze collided with a logging truck that was backing up on Route 9 in Stoddard around 4:45 in the morning. She died from her injuries the next day, March 24, 2023.
On Tuesday before the Crimson Tide girls’ soccer team took on Manchester Central-West, the community paused to remember someone who jammed far more joy and positivity and hard work into her 18 years and 11 months than most have at that point in their lives.
Dozens and dozens of photos compiled into collages of Mayer with family and friends welcomed fans in attendance. The booster club sold black “Mayer #12” shirts, helping raise money for the scholarship fund created in Mayer’s honor. A 50-50 raffle collected over $800.
Andrew Mattarazzo, the Crimson Tide head coach, began the night with a note of remembrance over the public address system, highlighting Mayer’s devotion to her teammates, the program and to everyone else around her. Mayer’s father, Jeff, paced around throughout the evening, from the tables selling shirts to the front of the bleachers. He couldn’t walk very far without someone stopping to give him a hug.
His daughter had so many more memories to make, milestones to achieve and laughs to share.
“It’s so overwhelming in a good way,” he said ahead of Tuesday’s ceremony. “I am beyond grateful, humbled, blessed. It’s so hard to put it into words what this means. They’re helping to create her legacy, and it’s amazing how this community and this family has just put their arms around me and everyone and just supported us. It’s unbelievably touching.”
Mayer’s soccer career nearly ended as quickly as it began. She started either in kindergarten or first grade, her father recalled, but she broke her toe while playing.
“I’m never doing this again,” he remembered her saying emphatically.
But the next year, she was back at it, and soccer opened up her world. It’s how she met some of her closest friends and where she made such an outsized impact in the Concord soccer community.
Caroline Quirk, now a freshman at the University of South Carolina, was the inaugural recipient of the Kelsey Mayer Memorial Scholarship this year. A year younger than Mayer, the two played soccer together from the time Quirk was in third grade through Mayer’s senior season.
“She was someone who would constantly have your back, on and off the field,” Quirk said. “She would always push me to do my best and always wanted to see the best in someone else.”
Mayer was a key asset to the Crimson Tide, especially her senior season when Concord finished 13-4.
“She was one of those kids that always had a smile on her face, always was there for the right reasons and was very passionate about soccer, which is something you obviously can’t coach,” said Mattarazzo. “You love to have those players on your team. She always brought the energy, brought the laughs to practice, and that was something that you’ll never forget about her.”
Mattarazzo, who coached Mayer for her senior season, also had an up-close view of the contagion of her passion.
“She wanted to get everybody better around her,” he said. “That was something that you couldn’t coach or you couldn’t expect a kid to have; she just had it.”
After graduating from Concord, Mayer attended Keene State where she became the first player to successfully walk onto the women’s soccer team in over 20 years. For as hard as she worked on the field, though, she was equally as lively off of it.
“She lit up every room she walked into,” said Mary Martinson, who played soccer with Mayer in Concord and is now a sophomore lacrosse player at Dennison University in Ohio. “She would always make me laugh. I always loved to hang out with her on the field and off the field. She was just such a bubbly personality, had the best smile that I’ll always remember.”
Mayer’s former team still includes three players she played with: Whitney Vaillant, Willa Marino and Maddie Brown. Vaillant scored the third goal in the Crimson Tide’s 3-0 victory, and with the win, came lots of smiles, just like Mayer would’ve hoped for.
“She will always be remembered,” Martinson said. “She made such a big impact on anybody she got to play with. This event is so awesome, and it’s so special.”
Added Jeff Mayer: “She just loved and was so loyal to them all,” he said of his daughter’s connection to her teammates. “She would’ve done anything for anybody that she loved, and she did. She was always there for everybody. I never realized that until I talked to everybody. The kid had such an impact on so many people.”