by Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor
Normally, there is all kind of elation when you win a championship. Especially, if that is the first title in the history of the school. But, when Mount Mercy Academy shared the title with Mt. St. Mary last year, there felt like a sense of failure.
It doesn’t happen often that two teams share a championship, but that’s exactly what happened when Mt. Mercy and Mt. St. Mary ended their game in a tie during g the Monsignor Martin Class B title game at Canisius College.
Because there are no Class B state games to be played, the league decided not to play overtime, or penalty kicks, to decided a winner. The decision didn’t sit well with players, or parents, and that has kind of left a bad taste in the mount of many - including Mt. Mercy’s Maddie Hart.
“Emotions were very overwhelming sharing the championship title. We worked very hard to get there all season and I was personally disappointed with the outcome. MSM is a very competitive team and I don’t think it was fair for either of us,” stated Hart. “Yes, there is always room for improvement especially this year. Last season set us up for what to expect and I do think the outcome of the championship relit the fire for this season. My returning teammates and I are determined to come back with our own championship title.”
Hart has been an important piece to the Magic for the last three years. During the time, Hart has played different position, but mostly has been paying up front. Last season, Hart moved back to more a midfield position.
Even with the move, Hart was still expected to contribute. Whether is was scoring goals, or setting up her teammates, Hart was ready to do whatever her coaching staff had asked of her.
“Our formation changed a little on the field. Last season I played more of an inside mid which works up top and sets up a lot of quick plays and goals,” stated Hart. “It was a bit of an adjustment but I trusted Coach Higgs because I know she does what is best for us. I ended up having a good season with many assists.”
Even with the change of formation, Hart was still expected to score at times. After all, she had played as a striker for the first couple years of varsity soccer. She knows the pressure can mount on anyone who lines up top.
It’s not easy to handle that type of pressure. Teammates are expecting someone to step up and lead the team. Hart knows that the pressure will be there. It’s not always about scoring goals. The pressure could be there if she makes the wrong pass.
Mistakes do happen. It’s how a player can learn from those mistakes.
“The pressure is definitely on when I am expected to make and set up goals. There are always going to be mistakes made but the game never stops or slows down, so I have learned to brush it off and prove myself,” stated Hart. “My teammates are also very supportive and we are always lifting each other up.”
Hart has worked hard to make herself into a very good soccer player for Mt. Mercy Academy. She has worked on everything, including her first work. Hart remembers what one of her first coaches said about her that she has bricks for feet.
That’s not a glowing endorsement when soccer players rely on their feet to make a living. But, Hart took what that coach said to heart, and worked on her craft to become a very good soccer player, not just for Mt. Mercy, but her club team as well.
“One of my first coaches said I had bricks for feet when I first started playing competitive soccer. It was true,” stated Hart. “With good coaching and a lot of training I’ve learned to stay quick and light on my feet. I would now say one of my strongest roles on the field is setting up quick one touch plays to get the ball moving up the field.”
Travel ball has become a big thing over the past few years. Players now play the sport 12 months a year, without much time off. However, not every team goes out there and plays for the travel teams like the Western New York Flash.
Some will play for a local team like South Buffalo. Hart is one of many girls that play for coach Higgins and South Buffalo travel. This allows her to continue to play for her coach during the “offseason” as she gets ready for her high school season.
“Most of the girls on Mercy including myself have played for South Buffalo Travel,” stated Hart. “Coach Higgs happens to be one of those coaches, so going into high school soccer we knew what to expect having that background.
With the graduation of four seniors, Hart knows she will be taking a bigger role this season as a leader. Last season, Hart was named a captain, and got a taste of what it takes to be leader on and off the field.
This season, Hart will take a bigger role as a leader, and is looking forward to help get this team back to the promise land. Hart is also out there recruiting the incoming freshmen to come out for the soccer program.
With a small pool to choose from, every girls that comes out for the team is huge. Mt. Mercy doesn’t boast a junior varsity team, so the underclassmen don’t get a chance to learn for a couple of years.
Instead the freshmen and sophomores are thrown into the varsity life. Hart makes sure she helps those girls get acclimated with school, and the varsity life. She wants them to make sure they understand what it takes to compete at the nest level.
“Leadership is huge. I was given a big part in leadership as team captain so I had to set a good example for the underclass men. I always try to get involved to recruit soccer girls in incoming freshmen classes, whether it’s at open houses or Mercy Camps,” stated Hart. “My younger sister Ellie was also a freshman on the team last year and will be a returning player this upcoming season as a sophomore. I’m always trying to set a good example for her on and off the field.”
This is a big year for Hart. Not only are the Magic looking for an outright title this season, this is Hart’s last go around with her teammates. As a seniors, there are a lot of emotions for Hart. She holds high school sports close to heart.
She also knows there is unfinished business for her final season. Hart, and this team, want a full title. They don’t want to be co-champions again.