By Trevor Wenners
Assistant Director of Sports Information
Defense is not the most-heralded position in soccer, but it might be the most important.
Sophomore defender Madison Demkowski of the LaGrange College women's soccer team stands as proof. Demkowski's defensive skills have allowed the Panthers to take the next step in their evolution this fall.
The Panthers (6-7) have surpassed their win total from 2018 with six regular-season games remaining. The six wins are the most in a single season for the program since 2014, with five being shutouts. Demkowski has been a steady presence, forcing turnovers and blocking shots with her footwork skills. Her instincts and mind for the game allow her to see plays ahead of time, halting opponents' rushes and starting LaGrange's transition game.
|Madison Demkowski continues to raise the bar on defense for the Panthers.|
"Madison is one of the biggest reasons that our team has become much more competitive," said Panthers head coach Fred Wagenaar. "She is not only a very skilled player but has a fierce competitive drive that is setting the atmosphere for our games."
During a 3-2 win over Toccoa Falls on Sept. 11, Demkowski broke up a pair of rushes and made a highlight-reel sliding tackle in the first half. The sophomore standout cleared a corner kick midway through the first half against Mississippi University for Women on Sept. 24, as she elevated in traffic and headed the ball out of danger.
Demkowski, who earned the Panthers' 2018 Team MVP award, showed her desire by playing through a hand injury against Mississippi University for Women. She also made an outstanding block on a header attempt from inside the box during a USA South game against Covenant on Oct. 5. The motivated young woman never takes a play off and possesses all the intangibles.
"Madison's ability to organize the defense, as well as her individual abilities to handle one vs. one challenges, and even start the offensive attack from deep in our end, are huge factors in our new look," said Wagenaar.
LaGrange's youth is no secret, with 23 of 27 players being either freshmen or sophomores, which has made Demkowski's emergence vital. LaGrange is close to making noise in the USA South, developing a strong core as the chemistry continues to grow.
"I have wanted to establish a winning culture since I came to LaGrange," said Demkowski. "We have improved and are starting to build a complete team. The importance of our team being young is when we are all seniors and juniors, we will be a threat to our conference due to the chemistry and bonds."
The well-rounded student-athlete participated in a Q&A segment, speaking about the joys of being a defender and career aspirations.
Q: What are your team's goals for the remainder of the 2019 season?
A: We are striving to have grit and we want to have more conference wins than we did last year. We would love to qualify for playoffs because that would announce a new era in LaGrange soccer that has not happened for a while.
Q: Which areas have you improved in personally?
A: I am constantly trying to improve on my aggression and my way of play. My rookie season, I was new to the style of play that college had to offer, but this year, I have stepped it up. I have also become more aware of my surroundings when it comes to passing the ball to my teammates. My reaction time has increased when it comes to being aware of things.
Q: What are the joys and challenges of being a defender?
A: Defense is known to be tough because we must think plays through our mind before they happen, whether to pressure, cover, balance or delay. All these tactics are necessary when it comes to being successful. The most enjoyable part is the intensity. I love to attack the ball and get there before anyone else. I like to take the ball from someone, it makes me feel confident.
Q: How do you define a successful game as a defender?
A: A successful game is determined by your effort. If we held the opponent to a low-scoring game or to no goals, then it was a successful game for the defense. Also, we determine if it was a successful game by the way we distribute the ball.
Q: Who are your inspirations?
A: My soccer inspiration is my old coach Keith Shedd. He saw the talent in me, and he took me on his boys' select team. He built me into the player I am today in skill, speed and aggression. My other inspiration is my high school coach Justin Fitzgerald because he taught me the leadership skills. I did not have the confidence to be vocal, but he believed in me and taught me how to be that type of player.
Q: What are your career aspirations?
A: I am a political science major with a minor in history. My career plans are to be a leader somewhere in the government or to work for someone in the government. My dream is to become a politician and stand up for things that I believe can help our society.
Q: What are your hobbies?
A: I love to shop. My favorite stores are Target and T.J. Maxx. I also love to hike and take pictures.
Q: What are your hidden talents?
A: My hidden talents are scrapbooking and do-it-yourself projects. I have a hobby of turning something dull into something cool or cute. It is a talent I learned when I came to college and I needed a stress-relief activity.
Trevor Wenners can be reached at email@example.com.