by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor
Photos: Geoff Schneider/Sports Union (@GMSPhotoWNY)
If you have watched any of the World Cup qualifying, lately, you will see the pressure of the teams trying to get that much needed win. You will also see the lack of scoring. The lack of creativity.
It’s inside that 6-year box where everything happens. It’s where players earn their paychecks. But, it’s not that easy. If scoring was that easy you wouldn’t see a lot of 1-0 games. You would scoring being at an all-time high.
Inside the 6-yard box is where all the action happens. The great goal scorers know what to do when they are inside the area. They know how to work through the congestion to get the job done.
As the high school season has come to and end, no one was better getting the ball into the back of net than Iroquois High School’s Tessa Muskopf. The sophomore had a breakout season for the high flying Chiefs - and she did most of her damage inside the area that gets you paid.
“The 6-yard box is the most pressured place on the field. You instantly are swarmed by defenders in the 6. You have to be aware of everything around you because if you take an extra second, you lose the ball,” stated Muskopf. “The whole game is very fast, and you need to know what to do. One extra touch can turn into a turnover or a goal kick for the other team. Quick feet are important most in the small area because you need to get the ball in the back of the net before the defenders can clear the ball.”
Muskopf knows there is pressure for her to score. She is a forward. The one that people look to to get the job done. While there are others on the team that can put the ball in the back of the net, Muskopf knows that it’s her job inside the box to make sure the job gets done.
Muskopf also knows that she can’t let the noise bother her. Some of the best strikers in the world will have an off day. They all know those days are coming. It’s really how a striker bounces back, and the character they show.
“Yes, as a forward there is a lot of pressure. When I am on the field playing in a game, all the noise disappears,” stated Muskopf. “I get very focused which makes it much easier to reach the goal. I focus on the ball and the net only. When a defender comes at me, I change my focus to the defender and the ball. This focus is the most important thing in that moment which allows the noise to not affect me.”
She also knows there are times she needs to be “selfish.” The best strikers want the ball at their feet at the crucial times. They want the ball when the game is on the line. They want to be the one to step up to the spot and win the game.
Muskopf knows you can’t be scared to fail. Most strikers fail a lot. You just need to keep taking your chances until they finally go in. Having confidence in your abilities in key - and she has confidence when the ball is on her feet.
“As a forward, selfishness is important. If you have open space, you have to take it but you can’t waste it. Your teammates are there to help you at every second. If you have an open shot but also a teammate with a defender on her, you cannot be scared to take the shot because the opportunity could be wasted, and you will not get another one,” stated Muskopf. “Sometimes you see other things than your teammates do, and they will get mad if you keep the ball to yourself but they will get over it in two minutes. You have to keep in mind that everyone has a different perspective. Being too selfish is bad, you always must look for the best option and not take the ball for yourself if there is a much better option.”
While she has had a lot of success so far in her high school, you do have to remember that Muskopf is only a sophomore. All this success has come in the first couple of years since she has been on the team.
She still has a lot to learn, and Muskopf will be the first one to tell you that. She has grown a lot as a player this year, but still she has room to grow - which is going to be scary for the teams she plays against over the next two years.
“I have grown as a player a lot this year. I believe that I will continue to grow and have an even better season next year than I did this year. I’ve been in the game for years, so I am comfortable with the pressure and attention. I plan to continue to use my teammates help and not let other people get to my head,” stated Muskopf. “I always think about my work ethic. To do even better than I did this year I just need to put in all my effort and want to get better. I don’t let the pressure get to me because all throughout my soccer career I have grown. I also keep my family in mind and think about how much support I have from them so there is no reason to stop growing as a player.”
Her 24 goals were third on the team and her 14 assists were first. That reads all-around player. That reads someone who really loves the game of soccer. Muskopf is constantly working on her game, whether it’s with Iroquois High School - or with her club team the Western New York Flash.
Her breakout year has become one of her favorite so far. Not because of all the goals and assists, but because of the friendships she has made. This is a very close-knit team - and it shows.
“My sophomore season has been my favorite so far. I have made so many new friendships and grew as a player. My teammates and coaches are very important in making the season the best it can be. In the beginning of the season, I was not really close with a lot of the girls and it was hard to play with them on the field with no connection,” stated Muskopf. “As the season went on, we all became very close, and our play got immensely better. as each game went by, I started to get more attention from people and my coach because my personal game was growing. My coaches motivated me to keep putting in as much effort as I can and that is what made the season so amazing.”