It is a question Belleville West sophomore Taylor Mathenia gets asked quite often.
The daughter of Maroons soccer coach Jason Mathenia, Taylor Mathenia has become one of the top players in the very competitive Southwestern Conference. Her team best eight goals and 17 points rank her among the leaders in the SWC and her elevated play has helped Belleville West get off to a 6-3-2 record before its nonconference game with Springfield High School on Wednesday.
But introduced to the sport by her parents at the age of three and taught the basics of the sport by her dad, Taylor Mathenia remains firm with her answer when asked if the coach is tougher or more demanding on her then he is on the rest of the Maroons.
The answer is no.
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“I don’t think he’s any tougher on me then he is on anybody else. He pushes us all to give it a complete effort and to play our best every game,” Mathenia said. “At first I was a little scared because I thought it would be tough to play for him. But now I look at like it’s not any tougher playing for him than it would be playing for another coach.
“I love playing for him because he’s a great coach and because he’s there for me and he’s there if I ever need anything. But when we’re on the field, I don’t look at him being my dad. I look at him as being a coach and like I said, he’s tough on me. But no more so then anybody else on team.”
That mindset came in handy for Mathenia last week when she led the Maroons to wins over Granite City (3-0) and Althoff (2-0). The win over Althoff gave West a second straight prestigious Belleville City soccer championship.
Playing with more freedom to show off her goal scoring ability, Mathenia tallied twice in both wins. Her performances earned the honor as the Belleville News-Democrat Athlete of the Week.
Getting the Maroons back on track
Starting the season 4-0-1 in their first five games, the Maroons offense went silent for a period of four games.
Outscored 13-3 in that four game stretch which included a 4-0 loss to Edwardsville and a 5-1 defeat to Collinsville, the Maroons entered their game with Granite City 4-3-2 and struggling to find the back of the net.
But after a scoreless first half, the Maroons offense came alive as Mathenia scored twice in a 3-0 win. Two days later, Mathenia scored a goal in each half as West clinched its second straight city championship with its 2-0 win over Althoff in a game played on the nice field at McKendree University.
“Granite City is always a very physical soccer team and a tough opponent for us,’’ Mathenia said. “We didn’t really change anything at halftime. We just didn’t challenge them in the first half. The second half we tried to get as many shots on goal as we could. It paid off.
“Althoff was another tough opponent and a very good team. It meant a lot to all of us to win the city championship. We won it last year and we really really wanted to win it again. I want to win it next year and the year after. We want to keep this going for as long as we can.”
A move forward for Taylor
With the Maroons offense struggling to mount much of an offensive attack during the 0-3-1 stretch, Jason Mathenia and the Maroons coaching staff made the decision to move Taylor on top in the West offensive formation instead of just an attacking midfielder spot.
“We changed our formation and moved her (Taylor) from an attacking midfield to more on top to where it would open up our offense a little bit more,” Jason Mathenia said. “By doing so we’ve been able to create more offensive and better scoring opportunities for not only Taylor but other members of our team.
“I didn’t get to attend the Granite City game because I was serving a one-game suspension after getting a red card in the Collinsville game. But in watching the three goals we scored, I thought we executed very well and then to come back and have her (Taylor) score both goals against Althoff, it was a real boost for her as well as the team and myself.”
Being a dad
Although Jason Mathenia has done a superb job of coaching his daughter through the first 1 1/2 years of her high school career, he admits it’s tough at times to go from being a dad to coach. In the late going of the Collinsville game, Taylor and a Kahoks player were involved in a hard collision.
While Taylor needed to be helped to the Maroons bench, Jason Mathenia argued with official and was eventually given a red card, meaning he had to miss the next game — the game against Granite City.
“I’m going to be honest and say its tough at times to coach her. I get a little more emotionally involved at times whether its good emotions or other emotions,” Mathenia said. “I just have to step back at times and remind myself that I have treat her the same as I would any player on this team.
“What happened in the Collinsville game was very tough situation but I think I would have reacted the same way had it happened to any of my players. Yes I was irritated and I let my emotions get the best of me. I was aggrivated but once I got out there and saw that while she (Taylor) was injured, it wasn’t a broken leg, and that calmed me down a little bit.’’
Taylor Mathenia said she she is very close to her dad.
“He’s my dad and while he pushes me hard to be the best I can be on the field, we are very close,” Taylor Mathenia said. “After a game on the way home or if we’re sitting at and just talking,we’ll discuss ways I can improve and what I and we as a team can do in order to make us better. It’s really nice to have someone to talk too about things like that.”
A better player and a better team
Mathenia is also quick to credit her teammates as well for both her own and the Maroons success on the field. A year older and with a year of playing in the tough SWC, Mathenia feels she is a better player as a sophomore.
“Last year everything was new and I really didn’t know what to expect when it came to playing high school soccer. I enjoy it a great deal now that I’ve got the experience of playing for the past year,” Mathenia said. “And of course it’s just not one player out there scoring goals. It’s a team effort. I wouldn’t be able to score goals without my teammates.
“I think we have a very good team. We lost to two very strong teams in Collinsville and Edwardsville, but we’re looking forward to getting another chance at them.”