By Jon Gerardi
The Daily Item
Matt Metzger remembered it fresh in his mind like it happened yesterday, not two decades ago.
Girls soccer had just started to flourish in the Valley in the early 1990s and, for two years, Metzger was an assistant coach at Lewisburg.
It was during the 1993-94 school year that roughly 20 girls at Selinsgrove High School signed up to play soccer the next fall. The only problem was that program wasn’t exactly set in stone.
As far as those girls knew, they were joining a program that might not even exist when practices started and friends at other area schools were suiting up.
Metzger found out about the opening to become the Selinsgrove girls soccer coach and didn’t hesitate to put his name in. Making the jump from assistant to head coach is a bit of a task for anyone, let alone a start-up program with very little turnaround time from first practice to first game.
“I was given a list of girls that signed up sometime in July and had about a month to call and tell them there was an actual team and get a team together,” Metzger recalled.
“A lot of them hadn’t had a chance to prepare. ... But the fact they were willing to come out and try a new program, that was big,” he added.
To no one’s surprise, those first few years were trying times: 2-11-1 in 1994; 5-12-3 in 1995; and 2-16-1 in 1996. Just nine combined wins in three years.
But the girls bought into Metzger’s program, and the time and dedication that they put into the offseason was what helped pay dividends down the road, as Selinsgrove finally broke through in 1997 with a 16-4-3 record and an appearance in districts.
“(Qualifying for districts) was a huge stepping stone and from that year on, we qualified for districts every year since,” Metzger said.
That turnaround was due in large part to the work and effort those girls put in 20 years ago.
“At that time, there were a lot of things the kids down here took off with as far as playing in the spring (and) playing in the winter,” Metzger said. “They really started to buy into it.
“They’ve been playing for years before that (initial season) and that big push of freshmen that had been with the program, there was a foundation laid there. That foundation has kind of kept growing and basically has continued to fill our program year after year.”
What made it even more special for Metzger was knowing the freshmen in 1994 finally got to taste success as seniors, making it to the District 4 Class AA semifinals.
It wasn’t a fluke, either, as anyone who’s followed Selinsgrove knows the Seals haven’t tailed off at all. That is thanks to Metzger’s commitment and dedication to keeping the Seals among the District 4 powers year in and year out.
“The support also had made it easier and just the fact in Selinsgrove, from when I first started, there’s always been this culture with sports and winning and expecting to win and expecting to do well and willing to work hard, both during the season and the offseason,” Metzger said. “It doesn’t seem to matter what sport it is. There’s a good culture for that down here.”
And while he called it quits this year, stepping down after being at the helm since the start of the program, the memories all are fresh in Metzger’s mind.
As for his most memorable moment? He doesn’t have one, but rather countless.
There’s the first of his five District 4 titles, and the most recent, a thrilling shootout win two years ago against Danville that came down to the final shot. The longtime coach was also named the state’s Coach of the Year three times, including back-to-back years in 2011 and 2012.
“It’s hard to pinpoint necessarily one thing, just a lot of memories and a lot of kids that I’ve got to know and what they’ve been willing to do for the program and for me. A lot of pain (and) a lot of sacrifices they’ve given along the way, and that’s what kind of makes coaching nice,” Metzger said. “You get to see that and have kids that do that for you, and it kind of humbles you.”
It goes without saying that what Metzger did for Selinsgrove, putting the Seals on the District 4 girls soccer map, won’t ever be forgotten. While he’s grateful for his players’ sacrifices during those 20 years, those kids are no doubt grateful that Metzger helped get their program started and kept it flourishing for two decades.