Kerry Manion Georgia soccer

Georgia defender Kerry Manion (6) laughs with her teammate before the start of an NCAA soccer match between The University of Georgia and The University of Missouri at the Turner Soccer Complex in Athens, Ga., on Thursday, Sept., 20, 2018. (Photo by Kristin M. Bradshaw)

Kerry Manion and Kerri Cook share a lot in common: a name, a position and West Coast roots. They certainly have their differences, some as subtle as the last letter in their first name, but they took a liking to each other when their paths crossed on the Georgia soccer team.

“We have the same sense of humor,” Manion said. “We get along really well. We joke around a lot…We started texting even before she got here. She came in right before preseason. I got here in July. We were texting the whole time, and I was really excited for her to come. And she came and we became friends immediately.”

Manion is a defender from Westlake Village, California, who transferred from Columbia University. Cook, meanwhile, is a defender from Gresham, Oregon, who spent three years at Middle Tennessee State University.

They are fifth-year graduate transfers to the Georgia soccer program. This marks the first time head coach Billy Lesesne has coached any graduate transfers since starting at Georgia in 2015.

Leaving one college for another can be difficult, but Cook and Manion related with each other during the transition process. Their experience and maturity also helped make the jump easier.

“It’s a tough position to be in becausse you don’t really know anybody here and you don’t know how things work,” Lesesne said. “But they’ve really grasped things pretty quickly and understand what it means to be on the team.”

Manion spent four years at Columbia, where she started 33 straight games on the backline until breaking her leg prior to her senior season.

“It was heartbreaking,” she said.

The season-ending injury forced Manion to quickly change her plans for the future. The Ivy League doesn’t allow players to stay for more than eight semesters. Even if she wanted to, Manion couldn’t use her final year of eligibility playing for the team she knew and loved.

"It’s nice to have somebody that understands your situation."

- Kerry Manion, Georgia soccer defender 

Instead, she researched one-year master’s programs, and Georgia had a few that intrigued her, including sports management, the one she ultimately elected to study. Columbia’s coaches contacted Georgia, and the rest is history.

“The [Georgia] coaches were very receptive and kind to me,” Manion said. “With a lot of new freshman, they wanted experience, so they were really excited and made me feel welcome here.”

Cook transferred to Middle Tennessee after redshirting during her freshman year at the University of Oregon. The decision was bold, given that Middle Tennessee was so far from her hometown.

“I honestly never knew where Tennessee was on a map,” she said. “I wanted to stay west but then I had the opportunity come up and it was something I couldn’t pass down at the time.”

Cook was a team captain and played in 12 games for Middle Tennessee in 2017. She decided to come to Georgia because her coaches at Middle Tennessee, who coached with Lesesne in the past, recommended Cook to Georgia.

She is pursuing a master’s degree in early childhood education for students with English as their second language.

Manion and Cook have already made an impact on the team’s psyche. According to Lesesne, they bring “a calming presence” and “maturity” to a team that needs veteran leadership.

“We’re such a young team, and they’ve been through battles before,” Lesesne said. “They’ve been really good mentors to the younger players.”

Neither Manion nor Cook envisioned any of this happening. Manion didn’t expect to break her leg and sit out her senior season. Cook didn’t expect to attend three schools within five years.

But they are both happy to be at Georgia. And they are grateful to have each other.

“It’s nice to have somebody that understands your situation,” Manion said.

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