Before the start of the season last year, then-freshman Madison Wessel impressed Clearview head coach Dan Matozzo enough to earn the starting varsity goalkeeper job ahead of the season’s first game.
Understandably, there would be some growing pains for the young goalkeeper throughout her first year at the high-school level, which Matozzo expected. But once Wessel got comfortable, the longtime coach of the Pioneers said she was as good as they come while in net down the stretch last season.
“She was the best goalkeeper of the group starting out the season, so we felt comfortable going with her,” Matozzo said of Wessel. “When you start a freshman keeper, she’s going to take her lumps early on. But, in particular the last three games of the season last year, she played out of her mind.
“During the last game of the playoffs for us, she was making plays that you want to see at the end of the year from a good goalie back there.”
Now in the midst of Wessel’s sophomore year, following a 10-5 season during her first year with Clearview, the Pioneers are 7-2 through nine games, good for the most wins thus far in the Tri-County Conference Royal Division, thanks to Wessel’s play under the crossbar.
A month into the schedule, a line Wessel heard for motivation from her coach last year is still resonating with her now.
“I had some nerves at first, and maybe a little lack of confidence early on freshman year, because I wanted to show that I deserved my spot,” Wessel said. “I came out last year really thinking about wanting to ‘prove it’ to my coach and myself that I deserved to be there. That’s something that I really took away from last year that helped me come out strong this year now. It’s really motivated me to get better.”
What might impress Matozzo most about his sophomore goalie’s game is, in fact, her motivation and desire to get better. Earlier this year, following a 5-1 start to the season in which Clearview only allowed five goals across six games, the Pioneers collapsed in a 6-0 loss to Kingsway.
Wessel, Matozzo said, told her coach following the tough loss she felt she was the reason why they lost.
“After the Kingsway loss, she called me and said she felt like she messed the game up for us,” Matozzo said. “We have 11 girls on the field and we made a lot of mistakes all over. She made some, too, but the whole team did as a whole.
“She always feels like she should play her best while in net, which is impossible for a goalie,” he added. “A single game can be a disaster. But she always wants to play better and we love that.”
Looking at the rest of the starters, an experienced and senior heavy backfield has helped the first year and a half of Wessel’s time in net, while a young but strong offense has the Pioneers proving to be one of the stronger offenses in the Tri-County Conference.
Junior Payton Foster and sophomore Hannah Morgan, who both finished tied at 14 points for the second most on the team last year, are once again proving to be playmakers up front, alongside the likes of junior Ava Glaiser and senior Marissa Ciemny.
With big games on the Clearview docket during October, Matozzo hopes this season can be something special at its end.
“We set our goals high every year,” the coach said. “We want to get in the coaches tournament, challenge for a sectional title and challenge for the conference. Now they just have to work for it.”