High School Sports

Belleville West girls soccer star makes college choice

Belleville West senior forward Taylor Mathenia has made a verbal commitment to play soccer at Southeast Missouri State in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
Belleville West senior forward Taylor Mathenia has made a verbal commitment to play soccer at Southeast Missouri State in Cape Girardeau, Mo. Zia Nizami/BND

Belleville West senior forward Taylor Mathenia, who has 40 goals and 13 assists in her first three seasons in the Maroons’ soccer program, has verbally committed to play at Southeast Missouri State in Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Mathenia, a first-team pick on the Belleville News-Democrat’s all-area team the past two seasons, chose SEMO over Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

Mathenia had a career-best 17 goals and six assists as a junior, helping West finish 15-4-2 overall and 4-1-1 in the Southwestern Conference. She had a four-goal outburst April 13 in a 5-1 victory over visiting Althoff.

“I’m super-excited,” Mathenia said. “It feels good to finally have the decision made and have it over with. It’s already relieved a lot of stress because it’s been the main thing I’ve been thinking about. I’ve been trying to decide for a long time now.”

Mathenia said choosing between SEMO and SIUE, both teams in the Ohio Valley Conference, tugged at her emotionally.

“It’s been a hard decision between the two. They are similar programs,” Mathenia said. “I respect SIUE coach Derek (Burton) and the entire coaching staff, so much that I can’t put it into words. The same goes out to the SEMO coaching staff as well. I’ve always wanted the feeling of going away from home. ... I’m connected with the coaching staff at SEMO. I feel like I’m already a part of this big family there, and I just love it.”

It feels good to finally have the decision made and have it over with. It’s already relieved a lot of stress because it’s been the main thing I’ve been thinking about. I’ve been trying to decide for a long time now.

Belleville West senior Taylor Mathenia on her verbal commitment to SEMO

Mathenia’s coach at West is her dad, Jason.

“I think it’s a good decision for her. I think it’s a good fit for her,” he said of Taylor’s commitment to SEMO, which was 9-6-4 overall and 3-4-3 in the OVC last year. “She definitely wanted to make this decision before school even started. It came down to what was going to be the best fit for her.

“Now that the decision has been made, I’ve already talked to the coach (Heather Nelson) several times about what can be done on my end as her high-school coach ... to help mold her into what she’s looking to have her do at SEMO.”

Taylor Mathenia has not yet declared her major.

On the field, she will use her senior season next spring at West to sharpen her skills for her first college year in the fall of 2018.

“It’s going to be challenging, obviously, and it’s going to be a lot different than high school,” Mathenia said. “I just need to make sure I’m working even harder than I have to push myself. I need to get stronger, for sure. Speed’s there, but I need to work on my strength.”

Mathenia comes from a tightly knit family, and she pointed out that SEMO is close enough to home, a little over 100 miles, that she can return with ease when her schedule allows.

“I’m super-close with my family; I’m a big family person,” she said. “SEMO works out well because it’s about an hour and 45 minutes away. It’s not too far, but it’s not right in my backyard like I feel SIUE is. It’s close enough for my family to come to a few of my games. They can make a trip (to Cape Girardeau) and I can make a trip back home if I feel like it — without it being a real struggle.” 

David Wilhelm: 618-239-2665, @DavidMWilhelm

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