GETTING DEFENSIVE

Tom Batters
Tracy Metzinger

When Tracy Metzinger started playing soccer at age four, her parents, Bob and Karen, would clap and cheer whenever she managed to kick the ball, which didn’t happen very often.

“I wasn’t very good,” said Metzinger, who is now a first team All-Conference defender on the Peoria Notre Dame soccer team. “I would just run around the field most of the time. It was a big deal if I got to kick the ball.”

Metzinger started playing soccer with her cousin, Aly Redington, who plays for Dunlap. The two are still close friends. Metzinger helped Redington get through a season-ending ankle injury last spring.

“That was hard for her,” Metzinger said. “She was having such a great year (leading Dunlap in goals). It was sad to see her season end.”

It did not take long for Metzinger, the little girl who rarely kicked the ball, to become a serious soccer player with a flair for playing tight defense.

“I had played other positions, but I always liked defense the best,” she said. “I always liked stopping somebody from scoring. If somebody on the other team is a good scorer, I take pride in shutting her down.”

 She played in club youth soccer leagues growing up and made the Notre Dame varsity team as a freshman.

She credits Notre Dame coach Matt Blackford for teaching her what it takes to play defense at a high level.

“I had never played under a coach who had that much intensity,” she said. “He was demanding of me, but I’m gad he was like that. He made me a much better player.”

She said there is more to playing defense than some causal soccer fans might think.

“Some of it is just instinct. You have to be able to react quickly,” she said. “But, there is a lot of skill involved, too. You always have to be working with the other players on defense. One wrong move could end up in a goal for the other team.”

The position becomes more challenging when the other team has a prolific goal scorer. She said Richwoods junior Courtney Holtz, who led the conference in goals, was tough to defend.

“She has great skills, and she can do so many things with the ball that most players can’t do.”

Notre Dame held Holtz scoreless during a 2-1 win over the Lady Knights in the Sectional semifinal game in May.

Blackford, a former defender, called Metzinger a “coach’s dream.”

“She doesn’t care about her stats. She only cares about the team,” he said. “She can handle the intensity, and she never complains about anything. She’s a good kid, too. You never have to worry about her getting into trouble.”

Metzinger said she will miss Blackford, who resigned at the end of the season to become the school’s athletic director.

“I’m happy for him. I know he’ll be a great athletic director,” she said. “He’ll get us a good coach.”

Metzinger, who said, “soccer is my life,” is playing on a club team based in Bloomington this summer.

She recently had both her knees scoped after tearing cartilage, but she said she feels much better.

She is already thinking about next year, when the Lady Irish will try to get back to the postseason and advance beyond the Super-Sectional, which is where they lost last season (2-0 to Normal West).

Metzinger will be a senior, and she acknowledges that her role will take on much greater importance, especially since Notre Dame graduated six key seniors.

“We have a good shot to go to the state tournament,” she said. “I want to do anything I can to help us get there.”