For the Tri County Vikings soccer team, 2017 will be remembered as the program’s finest year, having gone 19-2 overall, winning a share of the Central State Activities Conference and earning the team’s first district title.
For Vikings goalkeeper Macey Matulis, that’s what she will remember most about this season.
But she will also remember the team’s last game, which was a 5-2 loss to Grand Rapids Catholic Central in a regional game, the furtherest any Tri County team has gone in the playoffs.
“For the season, I didn’t have very many shots on me. Then at regionals, I had a lot of shots on me,” said the 16-year-old second-year starter. “They were making shots that I wasn’t used to.”
The team’s success in the regular season may have been too successful, giving Matulis’ job to tend to the net was well guarded by her defense.
The team was potent both on offense, with one player scoring more than 30 goals in a season — sophomore and fellow Sensational Sophomore honoree Grace Miller, who is now on the Michigan High School Athletics Association’s top scorers list for the 30-goal mark — and on defense, in which the Vikings surrendered zero shots on goals in five of their games and had three or less shots on goals in another eight games.
“Personally, my goals for next year are to make more saves and make smarter decisions,” Matulis said.
Although she credits her defense for doing a wonderful job in front of her, the sophomore-now-junior has 13 shutouts under her belt, something any goalkeeper would certainly be proud of, according to her coach and father, Vic Matulis.
Had you asked him before his daughter started soccer at a young age, he wouldn’t have chosen her to be a goalkeeper.
“As a parent, you don’t want your kid as a keeper because there’s a lot of pressure on them,” he said. “It takes a type of person to be able to do that. She wanted to be keeper and she’s earned her spot there.”
Vic said the defense feeds off how well Macey performs and it shows in big games almost all the time.
“With the record we had and against (co-CSAA champ) Big Rapids and other big games, she was there,” Vic said. “She was there mentally and physically. That’s tough to do for a high school athlete.”
Macey already has her focus on being better personally and as a team next year.
“I’d like to think the intensity will carry over. I also need to focus better, myself,” she said. “Teams progress over the years. We may have not gotten as many shots this year, but it may not be like that next year, so I have to be prepared and ready.”
There is no other position in soccer that can win or lose a game so quickly than goalkeeper. But that intensity is what Macey thrives on.
“I started learning to be goalkeeper in U10 (youth soccer), when we were learning positions and I got put there,” she said. “I wanted to do that. I love the intensity of the game and the pressure being goal keeper. It pushes me to be the best.”
Macey described the position as an overseer of the field, shouting commands and directions to her teammates like a general in a battlefield.
“That’s one of my favorite things about being goalkeeper is you get to see the whole field. I have to tell people what they can’t see,” she said.
Although directing traffic may sound easy, a goalkeeper earns her keep when the ball makes its way through the lanes of legs and makes a furious roll or bounce towards the gaping mouth of the net.
“You always have to be on your toes. You have to be ready for a shot, even if they don’t look like they’re coming at you, they can take a wicked turn,” Macey said. “When I don’t have any shots coming at me, I’ll talk with my teammates through stuff and move back and forth just to be sure I’m ready for any long shots coming at me.”
Macey grew up watching her older brothers Dylan, a 2016 Tri County graduate, and Brent, a 2013 graduate, play for the Vikings boys soccer team. Today, Dylan, along with team manager Julie Bice, helps get Macey ready before games while Vic practices and warms up the rest of the players.
“My brothers have had a big impact on my love for soccer,” she said. “I watched every one of their games when I was growing up. It made it something easy for me to love, as well.”
Vic said Macey’s brothers were a big part in her being a coachable player.
“My kids always work hard, and she saw that with her older brothers,” Vic said. “But I didn’t have to instill that. It was very easy to coach my kids.”
Macey said having her father as her coach has never been a conflicting issue.
“It’s pretty much a coach-player relationship at practice and games,” she said. “We always have that father-daughter connection, but he’s a coach at practices and games. That’s how it is.”
Macey did admit being with her father this year was extra special with all the team’s success.
“It is pretty awesome to have him along side of me, especially the experience of winning the conference and a district title,” she said. “This year, we finally got one. He’s been working towards that and being right there by his side when he finally got it was pretty cool.”