Dod Connects The Dots

Posted: May 6, 2013

HARRISONBURG — Harrisonburg High School girls’ soccer coach Amy Cerelli was prepared to talk about Maddy Dod. She brought notes.

The 15th-year coach wanted to make sure she got it across, in as full-and-complete way as possible, just how important Dod is to the Blue Streaks.

“She’s one of our central midfielders and she is very good,” said Cerelli, reading from a scribbled-over scrap of paper. “She sees things that other players don’t on the field.”

Scripted or not, that about says it.

Dod is the essential conduit — the link between HHS’s super-stingy, shutout-pitching defense and its offense, much of which is created by Dod’s field vision and daring approach to soccer.

“I like to get tough,” said Dod, who goes by Maddy because she thinks it sounds more “tenacious” than Madelyn, her full name. “I don’t like to let people walk all over me, and I feel like you can intimidate them, and it’s a lot easier for you.”

Without the abilities of the 5-foot-4 sophomore, the defense wouldn’t be able to be the Streaks’ lynchpin this season, as it’s traditionally been during Cerelli’s tenure.

“If they didn’t have a central midfielder, they would be just kicking it,” Cerelli said. “They wouldn’t have anyone to go to.”

And Harrisonburg, an area power, wouldn’t be having another Harrisonburg-type season.

The Blue Streaks are again a team to beat in the Valley District, rolling to a 10-2-1 overall record and a 7-0-1 mark in the league. The tie came against Spotswood — a state-tournament team last season and the defending Valley champion — in Penn Laird, but HHS avenged it later in the season with a defense-fueled 4-0 win over the Trailblazers on April 26.

Multiple HHS players called it their best defensive game of the season.

“It was a shutout,” Harrisonburg junior right back Simara Allen said. “They have really strong forwards and midfielders, but we shut them down.”

Through 13 games this year, the Streaks have allowed just nine goals. They’ve also had seven shutouts, meaning HHS is blanking opponents 54 percent of the time.

The Streaks’ defense is fast and aggressive, with Allen and senior Taylor Grogg, a team captain, on the outside. In the middle, it’s a pair of freshmen: Olivia Yutzy at sweeper and Sophia Hartman — who is subbing ably for the injured Kara Simmons, a sophomore who is expected to return in time for the district tournament next week — at stopper.

Harrisonburg also has a freshman at keeper: Maddie Penrod. The defense makes her job easy.

“The [shots] they shoot aren’t like legit shots,” Grogg said of opposing teams. “They’re like passes because they don’t have the time to shoot because we have such a quick defense.”

Cerelli said her teams always have been built on defense and that she looks for poise and toughness in her defenders, and HHS seems to have an ever-plentiful supply.

 “It takes a lot of concentration to focus on the ball, stay in that defensive position … and make sound decisions constantly,” Cerelli said. “And they are supposed to get up on offense in support.”

Where does the 2013 Harrisonburg defense rate?

“Probably one of our top,” Cerelli said. “We’ve always been pretty strong in the back, and it always seems when we lose a defender, we replace a defender, which is amazing.”

What helps make this year’s defense so effective is Dod in the middle, where she makes sure HHS’s defense transfers into offense. With Dod and junior Sara Shenk-Moreno — HHS’s second center midfielder in its 4-4-2 — distributing, the Streaks have scored 43 goals this season, an average of just over three per game.

Dod has scored eight of those goals and has had 11 assists. She also appears to be adept at corner kicks — in last Tuesday’s win over a strong Eastern Mennonite High School team, it was her corner that set up Bessy Jimenez’s game-winning goal. Hartman got the assist on Jimenez’s header, which came with 43 seconds to play in a then-1-1 tie. HHS won 2-1.

But the relationship between the defense and Dod is symbiotic. She helps them and they help her.

“I can always rely on them to be back there and take care of any counter attack, so I don’t have to get back as soon as possible,” Dod said. “And that just makes Sara and I’s job a lot easier. We’re not so focused on staying back, and that way we can be more offensive, which helps us out scoring.”

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