Nick Manzoni stood in support of his soccer teammates on the soccer practice area at Orono High School, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011. Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune
On late summer's chilliest day, Nick Manzoni pulls up to the soccer field at Orono High School, hip-hop vibrating through the open roof and windows of his bumblebee-yellow Jeep Wrangler.
"I can't roll them up for two more weeks," he says.
His hair is gone, his senior season is lost. Playing in college is no longer a foregone conclusion for one of the top three soccer players in the state last year. He's been through six rounds of chemotherapy, and surgery is next.
Friends on the bleachers greet him with playful jabs as he pulls on a pair of cleats. Keeping things "normal," the 17-year-old says, is very important. That's why the kid who pushed Orono to the state tournament goes to practice mostly to watch.
Without him playing this year, the Spartans are 4-4.
"He knows that if he was out here we could be undefeated," said friend and teammate Willi Semsch. "That's how much of a difference he makes."
This summer, Manzoni was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare childhood cancer diagnosed only 200 times per year in the United States.
"He's very stoic about it," Debbie Manzoni said of her son. "He processes it as if, 'Tell me what to do and let's do it.'"
Nick Manzoni has had the chemo. In two weeks, there's surgery to take a piece of bone from his leg. Then he will try to play again.
"It's unfortunate that cancer has derailed his senior season," coach Brad Carlson said. "It's not going to derail him, though."
Nick Manzoni kicks the ball during practice at Orono High School, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2011. Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune
As his Sept. 29 surgery approaches, doctors say he's well above average in energy level, white blood cell levels, diminished side effects and bodily reaction to the medications.
Holding it together