By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
Little did Jenna Green know that moving to a different position on a whim during a summer practice several years ago would alter the course of her high school soccer career.
“I used to be a striker but sophomore year they moved me back to an outside defender. I had always played forward or outside wing so it was a different transition. It was odd at first but I got used to it pretty quickly,” said Green, a central defender for the Egg Harbor Township girls soccer team, and a senior captain. “It was during the summer workouts (sophomore year) and we were down a few players, so I offered to play defense just for fun, but once I played there I ended up slide-tackling a girl and my coach was like, ‘yup, you’re becoming a defender.’ I was surprised. I was hesitant at first, but once I started practicing there I started to love the position, and I’m glad I switched. It gave me more vision on the field. I had to become more patient and less straightforward with the ball.”
“When we make those decisions it’s because we’re making them based on what’s best for the athlete and the team,” Eagles coach Christian Wiech said of the decision to move Green to the back line. “We had a conversation with her. We wouldn’t do that with every player, because forwards are a special type of player, mentality-wise, but what we saw from Jenna was that defensive, prideful, selfless type of style and that’s why we knew she would be successful in transitioning to the back line. Her athleticism would make her successful at any position, really.”
Green’s story is one of perseverance and having the confidence in herself to stick with soccer even when she wasn’t having varsity success early on in her career. She played junior varsity for two years before getting a chance to be a varsity player, and by the time she was a senior she had worked her way up to become a team captain. But even that honor took some doing, as she didn’t earn the captain’s armband until halfway through her senior season.
“It meant a lot to me because coach didn’t make me a captain right away. I wasn’t named a captain until midseason, and that made me feel really good. It made me feel like the other girls could count on me and that I could be there when they really needed someone. It felt like I had to work harder and do more so the younger players had somebody to look up to who was dependable,” Green said. “Just being there for your team in general and being able to help your teammates if they need advice, looking after them if they are down or upset, and just being there to lift them up when they are having a bad day is what being a leader is all about.”
“Jenna was a team captain because of her character and work ethic. She’s very coachable and has all those qualities you’re trying to instill in your team. When she came into high school she was a forward but we converted her over because we saw we’d have a need (on defense) and we really liked her skill set as a defender. She said, ‘yeah, sure coach, whatever you need.’ And by her junior year she was starting for us. She played outside back for us last year and we asked her to play center back for us this year,” Wiech said. “Jenna was key because we had three new starters on the back line. It took us a while to find the combination that we really liked, but the one constant was Jenna Green. I’m proud of her and happy for her. She was one of the runners up for homecoming queen at our school, so she’s well liked by her peers. Just a great kid.”
Wiech said he considered giving Green more minutes as a sophomore, but that year EHT was so good on defense and had several experienced seniors. The Eagles won 11 games in 2019 and made it to the semifinals of the Cape-Atlantic League Tournament. Green has been an instrumental part of a rebuilding process that saw EHT go 6-5 last year and 8-6-2 this fall.
“She probably could have played varsity her sophomore year but we had a really strong defensive class above her (as juniors) and even above that with the seniors, but having a year played at JV, I think she was ready and that helped her mature more,” Wiech said. “So by the time her junior year came, she was ready. She came in as a first-year varsity player and started every game. Her transition was fast. She does play club ball, so that extra time playing that position in the spring helped. And soccer is the type of game that if you’re a good player, you can play anywhere on the field.”
Green said she really enjoyed her senior year, and will carry fond memories of her high school career with her wherever her future might lead.
“It was a really good year. Our team played well and we really had a good connection. (My high school career) was a great experience. I love the girls and it was great to go through everything with them. To start on the freshman team and work my way up to varsity, to then a varsity starting player and then a captain, was really special. I didn’t think I’d get to be a captain, so that felt really good,” Green said. “My best memory is just bonding with the girls. Sophomore year we had a really close team, and this year we were just as close. Having that bond just made the sport 10 times better, to know that after school I’d be hanging out with people I like and get along with. It felt kind of empty for a little while (after my last game). I grew up playing the sport that I love, and knowing I’m probably not going to be playing in college made me sad, but I’m glad about my high school career.”
Contact Dave O’Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @GDsullysays