Big promotion: Lowery will start in goal as a 7th-grader
by Gigi Alford
Star Staff Writer
Aug 15, 2010 | 1226 views |  0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JACKSONVILLE — Standing 5-3, with an easy smile and polite manners, Jacksonville High School seventh grader Mattison Lowery will nonetheless fill the frame of the Lady Golden Eagles' soccer goal in the coming year.

With a vertical jump that reaches the 8-foot crossbar and the determination of Joe Namath's knees, the middle-school student has been tapped to be the varsity girls soccer team's last defense between JHS' opponents and the back of her net.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, Lowery welcomes the pressure.

"I get to do anything I want to get the ball," Lowery said. "I like the feeling that somebody shot at me and I kind of crushed their dreams for a bit."

Fierce competitor may be too tame a description for the 12-year-old goalkeeper. For those meeting her for the first time, they may not believe it would fit at all.

After all, she wears makeup to practice, competes in pageants and goes by "Matti."

Lowery's favorite memory on the soccer field illustrates her competitiveness. She describes a moment in a recent game in which she took on, by herself, two or more attackers from the opposing team.

The first striker blasted a shot on goal, and the ball bounced off Lowery's finger-tipped save. The second attacker collected the rebound and fired another shot, which a scrambling Lowery was also able to deflect.

What's more: the other players were boys.

Like many girl soccer players her age in this area, Lowery is used to competing on boys' teams in city recreation leagues. When it comes to playing for their schools, girls have to either play up on the varsity squad or wait until they get through middle school, if they're lucky enough to have a high school team at all.

"I would like to have opportunities for those girls that age to have a junior varsity team to play on and develop," said Sam Cain, girls soccer coach at Jacksonville High School for the past seven years. "There are only a few girls like her who can play up with the older girls."

Lowery went outside Calhoun County to train to play at the level she hopes will one day land her a scholarship to play at Notre Dame.

Her parents, Matt and Cindy Lowery — a firefighter and a photographer, respectively — drive their daughter to Gadsden, often three times a week, to train with the competitive Tornadoes travel club.

They also pay to have a Jacksonville State University goalkeeper, sophomore Katelyn Geddings, train one-on-one with Lowery at least once a week.

In addition, their son, Stuart, 10, plays football.

"My life is a soccer season interrupted by a football season for the boy," said Matt Lowery.

Mattison Lowery credits her father for her achievements in net.

She said it was her father's idea that she try soccer at age 5. Three years later, he was coaching her team when the starting goalie came off the field and Lowery, the unlucky coach's daughter, was told to put on the gloves.

Geddings said the strengths that make Lowery an individual force in the net — determination, athleticism, intelligence and confidence — make her a team leader come game time.

Cain agreed. He said Lowery's intensity and drive, which are unmatched in his 20 years of coaching, are quickly rubbing off on her new teammates at JHS.

"Older players already respect her," said Cain, who took the Golden Eagles into the Elite 8 in state championships last season. "They look to her to be on the field and talk to the team."

Lowery was named MVP goalkeeper in her age group at the Coastal Carolina Soccer Camp in July.

Cain hopes her achievements will blaze a path for Calhoun County soccer players who come after her, girls and boys. He would like to see more local opportunities than what Lowery has had.

"Not every kid wants to drive to Gadsden or Birmingham," Cain said, "or pay all that money to play for a travel club."
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Big promotion: Lowery will start in goal as a 7th-grader by Gigi Alford
Star Staff Writer

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