Good thing Jessica Peterson had already made up her mind.
This could have gone real bad for her older brother, Zak.
The Maryville College women’s team (11-1-1) hosts Birmingham Southern in an important South Region match this evening at 6 p.m. Peterson enters the game needing a single goal to break Maryville’s single-season record of 24, a mark she shares with senior and Lady Scot teammate Sarah Harmon. Harmon enters the match within 10 of the school’s career mark of 70, held by former All-South Maryville forward Jennifer Windrow.
Peterson almost never got the chance at any Maryville records. Zak Peterson, a junior forward on the men’s team, preceded his kid sister at Maryville. When it came time for Jessica to pick a college, Zak, jokingly, perhaps, told her to look elsewhere.
“At first he didn’t want me to come here,” Jessica said.
It’s not uncommon for siblings who’ve attended the same preparatory schools to go off to different colleges. This was different, though.
Jessica Peterson wasn’t just good at soccer. The 5-foot-5 speedster could score goals like crazy. When Maryville coach Pepe Fernandez learned of the advice Jessica was getting, he quickly got on the phone.
“I told Jess we’d get rid of Zak if she came here,” Fernandez said.
Happily, the Petersons are now both thriving at Maryville. For Jessica, there was never really another choice.
She’d fallen for the small liberal arts college in a big way after coming to town to see Zak play his first two seasons. Maryville was small, the environment much in keeping with their old high school back in Loveland, Ohio.
“I didn’t want soccer to be the main thing in college,” Jessica said. “I wanted to have friends and have school come first.”
The pace the Lady Scot flyer is on has her currently ranked second nationally in Division III in both goals and scoring. Where the record-setting Harmon, who owns the Maryville single-season and career records for assists, is more analytical in her approach to scoring goals, Peterson can simply run by many opponents, a curious thing considering her background.
One of the fastest players Fernandez has ever recruited, Peterson also ran track in high school, focusing on the 200 meters and 4x200 relay.
“I hated track,” she said. “I don’t like running at all.”
“You can tell sometimes,” Maryville midfielder Lauren Metts said.
Kidding aside, it’s no laughing matter what Peterson can do when Metts or one of Maryville’s other midfielders get her the ball.
“All I’ve got to say about this (Peterson) is you put (the ball) in the box, she’s going to score a goal,” Lady Scot senior Britney Vann said.
Part of it is speed, Metts said. Part of it is the competitor that burns within the diminutive Peterson. She’d missed of her freshman season due to injury. When she returned for 2008, she was intent on making up for lost ground.
“I worked hard this summer to get back because I really didn’t have a freshman year,” Peterson said.
When she returned, teams not only knew little about Peterson, they were, to a degree, largely unimpressed by her size. That would change.
“I think they underestimated her,” Metz said, “but not anymore.”
Part of what makes Harmon and Peterson such a prolific scoring tandem is the team around them. Players like junior Jill Deluca, senior Katie Fernandez, Vann and Metts pay little attention to their own scoring.
“We know our roles,” Deluca said, “and we shut our mouth.”
Strong words, albeit delivered in jest, but it’s hard to argue with the results.
It’s quite a run Harmon and she are on, Peterson said, but it’s best not to get too caught up in it. No one thought another Maryville player would ever approach the marks Windrow set, just as few felt the single-season tally Harmon totaled last season would ever be threatened.
“I’m sure, down the road, someone is going to break mine and Sarah’s records and say, ‘Oh, that was easy,’” Peterson said.
All that matters is where the goals Peterson and she have scored this season could take Maryville, Harmon said.
“This year, with the team we have, if we don’t go far (in the NCAA tournament), it’s going to be a disappointment,” she said.
Maryville reached the second round of the national tournament, a first for the women’s team, last season.