WHEATON – Maddie Monaco is one of those rare soccer players who prefers preventing goals to scoring them.
The Wheaton Warrenville South sophomore has been playing defense since she first put on her cleats in kindergarten.
“I like stopping the ball because I don’t care about scoring,” Monaco said. “I like being back there and saving goals.”
Monaco is good at doing just that, as she demonstrated April 17. Monaco helped hold Naperville Central to just two shots on goal, thanks in large part to a pair of terrific blocked shots in her own penalty area.
“You’ve just got to want the ball and give it everything you have,” Monaco said. “We really wanted to beat this team, so we were all just trying to beat them to the ball and win the tackle.”
Despite a valiant effort, the Tigers were unable to win as Naperville Central got a goal from Caroline Reedy with 1:28 left in the first half and held on for a 1-0 DuPage Valley Conference victory at Red Grange Field.
WWS (5-4 overall, 2-1 DVC) starts seven sophomores, so Tigers coach Guy Callipari is pleased to have a winning record at this point.
“I am proud of the fact that in the last 25 minutes we transitioned through three formations. I thought they did a nice job with organization and their understanding of their roles and managing the game and trying to create opportunities while playing against the clock as well as the opposition,” Callipari said. “For young kids, that’s really tough to do.”
Playing defense is tough for varsity rookies, but it is a role Monaco has embraced.
“She’s a kid that doesn’t play all year-round, but you can tell that athletically she is certainly capable and she’s hungry and she’s very intense,” Callipari said. “We’re looking for [her] to improve as she gets more comfortable with playing time.”
Monaco has moved into the starting lineup and meshed well with fellow defenders Julia Hildebrand, Maria Dohse and Claire Kipley. The Tigers have given up only eight goals.
“She seems very comfortable there and she’s very aggressive and she’s starting to anticipate well,” Callipari said. “Now if we can start getting her to play out of the back cleaner and faster, and we ask that of all our defenders, then we can get into transition and getting the front runners going to goal.”
Monaco thinks that will come with time.
“We’ve been playing pretty good,” Monaco said. “We’ve been working really hard because usually we’re the smallest team out there, so we’ve been playing really tough and giving it our all.
“From our first game we’ve definitely come a long way and I think we still have so much more to come.”