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Hall of Fame Spotlight: Holly Manthei

Posted: Monday, March 25, 2024 - 7:56 AM

HOF Class of 2024
Holly Manthei HoF headshot

Holly Manthei

Professional soccer was in its infancy in the mid-1970’s when the Minnesota Kicks played for six seasons in the North American Soccer League. Home games were played at Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington to exuberant crowds eager to learn more about the world’s game. After a three-year hiatus, professional soccer tried again, from 1984 through 1988, and this time branded as the Minnesota Strikers, a franchise that played both in the outdoor NASL and the indoor version in the Major Indoor Soccer League.  

In the south metro of the Twin Cities, just over the Minnesota River and sitting atop the bluffs, Burnsville native Holly Manthei was one of the Strikers’ biggest fans. While she was merely at the beginning of her own soccer journey, it thrilled her to be a part of the reverie of this fascinating game. She recalls “Ball Day” when 15,000 loud and ecstatic kids in attendance at Met Center in Bloomington to watch and cheer for the indoor Strikers, cradling the full-sized coveted orange and black soccer ball as part of a promotion from a local gas and convenience store. 

Back home, practicing endlessly with her father and using a training device that featured a long string on a ball that would retract, Manthei remained focused on a vision of playing for the Strikers someday. It was her calling, she believed. She so wanted to be a part of the continued growth of soccer in not only Minnesota, but also in the nation.  

“I didn’t know at the time that that wasn’t accessible to me,” Manthei said. “We just didn’t see a female presence at that time. I definitely knew that I wanted to play as long as I could. The game just brought me such joy. It wasn’t until high school that the 1991 U.S. Women’s National Team came onto the scene with Mia Hamm, and then winning that first World Cup. All of a sudden, it was like, wait, women can also do this. Maybe I can, too.” 

And so, she did.  

Not taking for granted her natural talent, Manthei was doggedly determined to nurture her skill sets, not just in soccer, but in becoming a high-level, versatile athlete. Considered one of Minnesota’s finest three-sport pioneers, Mantei, a 1994 graduate of Burnsville High School, was a two-time Minnesota State High School League state champion in soccer and a three-time all-state selection. In 1994, she was selected as a Parade High School All-American. Manthei won two other state championships while at Burnsville. She was a key contributor on Burnsville’s girls basketball team, winning a Class AA championship, and in the spring, she won the 300 hurdles at the League’s state meet.  

Manthei will be recognized for her feats and trailblazing efforts as part of the League’s Hall of Fame Class of 2024. She is one of four athletes in the 12-member class that will be inducted on Sunday, April 14 at the InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront Hotel.  

Soccer was Manthei’s career path following her prep career at Burnsville.  

She played at Notre Dame and was a four-time All-American. In 1995, she led the Fighting Irish to the NCAA Division I National Championship. A dynamic playmaker from the midfield, she led the nation in each of her first three seasons. In 1996, her 44 assists set a single-season national record. Manthei completed her collegiate career with NCAA records for assists (129) and postseason assists (nine). 

Her career trajectory continued with the U.S. Women’s National Team in 1995 and 1996. She was part of the team that placed third in the Women’s World Cup in 1995.  

“I don’t remember a time when I didn’t play sports,” Manthei said. “I wasn’t musically inclined; I didn’t have a good singing voice, so for me, sports was sort of always going to be my path. People ask me all the time, what does it take to have a daughter or a son play at the national team level? There are two kinds of players: One that has God-given talent and you have another that shows grit, will and determination. If you are a combination of both, you will really go far." 

During her high school career, Manthei was littered with athletic success and leadership. She believes the root of that was a commitment to being an unselfish player. In soccer, she was the workhorse in the midfield. During the basketball season, she drew the assignment of guarding an opponent’s star player, setting screens or taking charges. In track and field, she succeeded in the hurdles, one of the most challenging and in all of track and field.  

“She didn’t complain about anything along the way,” former longtime Burnsville girls basketball coach Doug Boe said. “She was tough as nails and remains one of my all-time favorite players. She had God-given talent in so many things and didn’t let it go to waste. Ask something of her, and it was always a done deal. Her teammates, her classmates, they all see that and they want to emulate it. It makes everyone better, not only in athletics, but in life.” 

“What’s so interesting about Burnsville sports in the 1980’s and ‘90s’ is that it was almost like living this idyllic athlete John Hughes type of film where you go back in time,” Manthei said. “You had the boys hockey team winning, you had the girls basketball team winning, the football team, and you had boys and girls soccer teams. There were 10 years of like, what is in the water in Burnsville? There are probably other sports like swimming and gymnastics that did really well, too, but it’s just that state of mind. It set me on this good path.” 

The respect that Manthei and Boe have for one another is mutual.  

So much in fact that in her senior year, Manthei wanted to step away from track and field, and instead, play badminton for Burnsville’s team that was coached by Boe. It was the first year that badminton was to be a varsity sport. Manthei figured she already had signed to play soccer at Notre Dame and had already won a state hurdles championship, so why not try something else? Her leadership senses kicked in and she had committed to leading the track and field team. 

“I thought it would have been really fun, but in hindsight, I had to use good judgment; I was defending my (track) title, and it was the right thing to do,” she said. “It was at the National Sports Center and I made it through the semifinals. I was in the No. 4 lane with the best qualifying time. But I ate it on the first hurdle and did not finish. I had burns on my face. I had to show up and walk at graduation the following day. It was certainly a good takeaway lesson in failure that, you know, things don’t always go how you hope they will.” 

Holly Manthei Action

Burnsville native Holly Manthei, here eluding an opponent, is a League three-sport pioneer. With Burnsville High School, she was part of three championships (two soccer and one basketball) and was the 300 hurdles state champion her junior year.

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