Maddy Lowe’s smile widens when asked why after spending last year with an elite soccer academy team in New Jersey she decided to return this fall to play her final season at Webster Schroeder.
“My hopes,” the senior forward says, “are to win a sectional title. Since freshman year that has been my goal.”
The third-seeded Warriors haven’t won since 2000, Kent Brown’s first year as coach. Lowe was 17-months-old then. Now the 17-year-old forward wants “the brick,” as some area high school players call the block-style trophy, to cap her career before heading off to play for Ohio State. She posted an Instagram message Wednesday about this being her last chance and used the #brickhunting hashtag.
Schroeder (12-2-2) hosts No. 6 Hilton (5-9-3) at 5 p.m. Saturday in the Section V Class AA quarterfinals. Schroeder beat Hilton 4-0 on Oct. 11 behind four goals from Lowe.
“When Maddy came in the spring and told me she was coming back that changed the dynamic for us,” says Brown, who knows the expectation level changed.
But to say Lowe just came back for the brick would be simplifying her decision way too much. She returned to recapture some of her youth. Rather than travel two or three weekends a month for soccer in her family’s SUV, as she did in 2014 and 2015, Lowe has been able to spend more time with friends and be more like a regular student-athlete, a teenager enjoying pep rallies and parties.
“I missed out on all the team stuff last year,” says Lowe, who has a team-high 12 goals but has found great support from freshman forward Anna Hewlett (9 goals/8 assists). “It’s awesome. I love the girls on my team … all the team bonding stuff is great. That’s probably the biggest thing I’m going to miss, not even the games and scoring. It’s being on the field with them after school every single day and the jokes we have.”
Aiding her decision was the fact that the Buffalo-based Western New York Flash Academy, where she trained as an Under-14 and U-15 player, recently became part of the same Elite Club National League circuit in which her Jersey team, Match Fit Academy in Montclair, played. Play with the Flash will shift into high gear in November and Aaran Lines, the director of soccer for WNY and its former pro team’s head coach, is happy to have Lowe back.
“Technically, she’s very, very good,” Lines says. “She’s got great vision and positionally we’ll see how she develops at the next level. She’ll be in good hands at Ohio State (where former WNY assistant Daniel Clitnovici is on the staff). Maddy could be a special player. It’s up to her.”
She has developed all the tools and Lines says even three years ago when he first worked with Lowe she was smaller, around 5-feet-4 (she’s 5-7 now), but was extremely dedicated. “She wanted to be good,” he says.
It was Lowe’s decision to skip her junior season at Schroeder and it had nothing to do with a college scholarship. She committed to Ohio State very early. “February of my freshman year,” she says.
The decision to leave high school ball came shortly after her sophomore season, when she was named All-Greater Rochester, ended with a loss in the sectional semifinals to town rival Webster Thomas. That had followed the most bitter defeat in her life, a 1-0 loss to Thomas in the 2013 sectional final on a rainy, windy and bitter cold night at Brighton High.
Back then she was in the United States national team’s U-17 pool of players and during a camp in California, U-17 coach B.J. Snow encouraged her to find an ECNL team to help her improve. “You can no longer be the best player on your club team,” she remembers him telling her.
With dreams of playing one day for the U.S. national team, dreams she still has, Lowe took it to heart. Match Fit was the closest ECNL team to Rochester.
“She’s a bright kid, a good student and whatever she has decided to do she has done it with conviction,” says Lowe’s father, John, 52, a former soccer goalkeeper at Livonia in the 1980s. “Had we known she wouldn’t stick and eventually play for the U-17 (national team) I’m not so sure she would have left high school ball.”
John Lowe says his family, including wife, Patty, and their two older children, Mark, 22, and Allison, 20, value school sports a great deal. Patty’s father was the late Mark Vienna, a Section V Hall of Famer in football and basketball who played at Geneseo Central and later coached and was athletic director at West Irondequoit. Section V Boys Basketball has an annual award it presents in Mr. Vienna’s honor.
“It’s memories and school spirit, scrapbook kind of stuff,” John Lowe says of school sports. “Patty and I were a little disappointed that she didn’t play (at Schroeder as a junior).”
But Maddy knew the ECNL would help her develop, and it did.
“Her feet are much faster and her decision-making is much better,” Brown says. “She’s able to dominate certain segments of the game when she gets space.”
Lowe is a threat to shoot and score from 35 yards out and being taller and strong than two seasons ago, she can use her size and speed, too, to accelerate past defenders. “Her explosiveness,” is off the charts compared to her younger days and she had six goals and five assists as a freshman and eight and four as a sophomore.
“One of the things that separates her from most players is she has an uncanny knack of moving the ball side to side and the moment a defender leans one way or is back on her heels, she’s by them,” says Tom Natalie, coach of top-seeded Fairport. “She reads that moment so well that defenders don’t even know how she got around them, and if your second defender isn’t there quick enough (to help), she’ll school that girl, too.”
Boston College, Louisville, Miami, Pittsburgh, defending national champion Penn State and Oregon were among the schools who courted Lowe early in her career, then cooled off when she committed to the Buckeyes (9-5-3), who are 27th in the latest national rankings. The college and coaching staff under veteran Lori Walker just felt right, she says.
Brown, who also coaches ODP, was never upset that Lowe skipped her junior season. Schroeder went 9-5-3 without her. “There’s no reason for a coach to be mad at a kid for trying to make themselves better, and the fact is she’s better,” he says.
Lowe was sitting in class last spring with a teammate when she finally told someone she’d decided to return to play for the Warriors as a senior. That teammate was defender/midfielder Lilly Stowell, one of eight seniors on the team. That memory and all the ones since are why she has cherished the past several months for “one last run,” as her Instagram post said.
“Sometimes I think I regret (missing high school stuff),” Lowe says whimsically, “but then I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t take that time.”