Dahlen is rock at sweeper for Chesapeake

Girls soccer: Mixing strong defensive skills with offensive forays, senior Tracey Dahlen has led the No. 14 Cougars to a 10-0-1 record.

High Schools

October 12, 2003|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,SUN STAFF

Chesapeake girls soccer coach Jerry McBee has long considered senior Tracey Dahlen his sweeper-plus, and it's easy to understand why.

The four-year standout has all the defensive prerequisites: instincts to read the game, smarts to make the right decisions and natural athleticism to make sure positive things happen.

Then comes the bonus from Dahlen: a long run with the ball or sharp passing with teammates that supplies timely offense.

Simply put by McBee: "I've come to expect it all from Tracey." And Dahlen, a first-team All-County selection last fall, has been happy to oblige.

The No. 14 Cougars have exceeded all expectations but their own this season, going 10-0-1 and posting eight shutouts with only four goals allowed. End-to-end play from Dahlen - who has six goals and two assists to go with her "nothing-is-getting-by-me" stubbornness on defense - has been the foundation.

"This has been amazing and just a lot of fun," said Dahlen, who's also an All-Metro shortstop on the Cougars' softball team. "I'm glad we're going out on an up note, and I just hope we can end the season with a win. This year, there's been a lot more heart. We never lose faith in each other."

Dahlen's reliable defense has long been taken for granted by McBee and teammates, but some of her goals this year still have them in awe. Everyone seems to have a favorite.

Junior fullback Emily Bolling certainly has her top choice.

In a 1-1 tie against Old Mill, Bolling was sent off for an intentional hand ball, so the Cougars had to spend part of the second half a player down. That didn't stop Dahlen, who volleyed home the game-winner off a corner kick in the final minute.

"She didn't want to hug anyone until she hugged me first. And then she came over and said that game and that goal was for me. It was an awesome feeling," Bolling said. "She's just an inspiration, and since I play softball with her, too, it's always wanting to be like Tracey. Every game we play, I always tell her: `I'm so glad you're on my team.' "

Dahlen mostly played center midfield on her club team and had been scoring goals since she started playing clinic ball at age 4, but during her freshman season, McBee needed a sweeper.

Her offensive skills enabled her to effectively work the ball out of the back, and her strong foot was ideal on clearing balls.

"She sees the field so well and hits the ball so well, that made it a natural position for her," McBee said. "In her sophomore and junior years, I was constantly experimenting with pushing her up. And every time I did, we seemed to pay the price."

With familiar seniors lined through the middle of the field and a skilled group of younger players fitting right in on the outside positions, the Cougars have thrived this season.

"This year, we're playing more possession and keeping our game under control better, so that has helped me out a lot. The chemistry has been there from the start," Dahlen said. "Our defense as a unit, it's just been a lot of good communication and I just try to make sure nobody gets in our area."

For the Cougars' captain, there's game time and then the rest of the time.

"It's kind of funny because knowing her, you wouldn't get that at all because she's like the nicest person," said senior stopper Kathy Devlin. "But once she gets on the field, she finds a zone and you can't get her out of it. She just pumps everybody up."

Chesapeake softball coach Don Ellenberger sees the same from Dahlen, who plans to play softball in college, on the diamond. Last season, she hit .519 to help the Cougars to a 19-4 mark.

"She has the attitude that she wants to be the best at whatever she's doing and works hard to try and get there," Ellenberger said. "It doesn't matter what sport it is or if it's a crossword puzzle, she just wants to be the best and she does whatever it takes to get there."

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