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Mansker soccer siblings personify Titans' teamwork

March 23, 2012 at midnight
Updated March 22, 2012 at 10:23 p.m.

Eric and Rachel Mansker play soccer for East. Eric is a senior defender and Rachel is a sophomore attacking midfielder.

Victoria East vs. Victoria West

Boys kickoff, 6 p.m.

Girls kickoff, 8 p.m.

East players will be accepting donations to support Kidz Connection, a VISD program that provides assistance for homeless students within the district.

Their first coach is almost always in the stands supporting them.

Rachel and Eric Mansker are usually oblivious to the encouragement. They are too busy running about on the field for their respective soccer teams at Victoria East. Once the whistle blows, the siblings are all business - much to the chagrin of their opponents.

Rachel leads the girls team in scoring from her attacking midfield position. Her older brother is part of a defense that has allowed just 10 goals in 19 games.

Both will need to be at their best Friday night as the Titans host archrivals Victoria West.

Rachel and the rest of the girls need a win or tie to ensure a spot in the upcoming playoffs, while the same result for the East boys would give them the outright District 59-4A title.

"I will be kind of nervous. In the last game I was nervous, but right when the whistle blows it goes away. I have to focus and do my thing," said Eric, one of the many senior starters for East. "I get really nervous before soccer games. I have such a big responsibility in the back. If I mess up, they score. I can't let that happen."

As important as the siblings have been for East the last two seasons, none of it would have been possible without their first coach and older brother Alex.

Ross Mansker was an offensive lineman and linebacker for Victoria High, who never played soccer growing up. That didn't stop him from becoming an assistant coach when his oldest child, Alex, started playing.

"I have enjoyed watching them play all these years," Ross said. "It's been my privilege to coach them and their teammates. A lot of quality kids play soccer in Victoria. It's a relatively unknown sport, but eventually, I think it will catch on."

When Eric came along he was more hands on. Then when Rachel started playing people said the patriarch had enough experience to be the head coach of her recreational and club teams.

From O.C. Garza to Daniel Serrata to Donna Sohrt as well as their current varsity coaches the two have had a handful of coaches that have guided them along their soccer path.

This week, the two sat in one of the coach's offices at Victoria East discussing soccer, family and how it all started with Alex.

Rachel had to count on her fingers to recall how many years she has played. Before she stopped Eric added he's been playing two years longer than his sister, meaning he's played for 13, and his sister 11.

"I really wanted to try it. I tried everything they tried," Rachel said. "If they did karate, I tried karate. If they got their black belts, I got my black belt. We all followed in each other's footsteps."

Eric said his brother, a former midfielder on the final Memorial teams who now attends the University of Texas, taught him the footwork required to be a defender. Rachel credits her oldest brother with some of aggressiveness on the field.

Family ties have bonded the three Manskers with their parents, Ross and Jacki. However, both are model teammates - if their nicknames are any indication.

Eric's teammates call him Baby Jesus because he slept and looked like a baby while on a trip for a game when he was a sophomore.

Rachel's teammates dubbed her Beckham during a preseason shooting drill and it stuck. That Rachel wears No. 7 and is a midfielder with pinpoint passing and a knack for scoring long-range goals is a coincidence.

The nicknames also illustrate how the chemistry of the Titans girls is starting to resemble the bond Eric has shared with fellow seniors Joel Gonzales, Cole Fimbel and Casey Brown for years.

"Rachel's greatest impact is that she is a leader on and off the field, not only through academics, but her communication with the other players," said Misty Boenig, head coach of the East girls. "She is a captain and I think they know to look up to her because she does the right thing."

Both Manskers are exceptional students. Their father said academic performance has always been a source of pride and competition among the three-in addition to being a prerequisite for sports.

"She's better than me. I am just lazy," Eric said with a laugh. "I admit it, I'm very lazy."

Eric, who has in upward of a 93 average, will attend Texas-San Antonio next year where he plans to study either biology or computer science. Rachel's average was a 99 her freshman year, but her grades have exponentially slipped to a 97.

"There are different types of discipline," Eric added. "You have so many teachers, just like you have different types of soccer coaches. One might be more difficult than the other and you learn from them all."

Ross said all three of his children tried other sports, but soccer was always at the forefront.

"They are high-energy kids and the yare able to get out and play," Ross said. "Soccer is a sport for smart kids. You have to be innovative on the field. The coach doesn't tell you how to play every second. You have to be able to think on your feet, make the play and be creative."

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