Mark Moulton spends the majority of his time on the soccer field demoralizing defenses.
Jackie Tondl usually is focused on giving scorers headaches.
The captains of The World-Herald's All-Nebraska soccer teams may have opposite mindsets at very different positions, but they do share one similarity:
Moulton was the second-leading scorer in the state, helping Omaha Creighton Prep win its second consecutive Class A boys title. Tondl was a lockdown defender for an Omaha Marian team that finished the season with 10 straight shutouts and its second Class A state championship in three years.
Both have rare skill sets.
For Moulton, a move from an attacking midfielder position to his natural fit at forward brought out his best. He scored 18 goals and assisted on 15 more this season.
He describes himself as a “finisher.” Prep co-coach Tom Hoover expands on that.
“The gentle confidence of a choirboy, with the battlefield heart of an assassin,” Hoover said. “He picks his moments and then just goes for it. He strikes.”
The 5-foot-8, 150-pound junior demonstrated that in the state championship game, netting a goal as Prep beat Omaha Westside 2-0 for the title. It was the second straight year Moulton scored in the championship game.
“That's pretty rare,” Prep co-coach Jim Swanson said. “But Mark just has a knack for scoring goals. I think in that game especially, Mark was on his game like no other time all year.”
Best with the ball at his feet and attacking, Moulton is hardwired to score. He shifted from midfielder to the front just before the Metro Conference tournament, and it proved to be a spark for Moulton and the Junior Jays.
Prep won six games in eight days, including four against state tournament teams, and outscored its opponents 29-3 in that stretch.
Moulton said he had “instant chemistry” in the Junior Jays' attack with fellow forward Matt Pritchard, who finished the season with 19 goals and seven assists.
“With two of us, it's a lot more deadly,” he said. “It helps when you have two players like Matt and I. It's the most effective way of attacking.”
Moulton hasn't decided where he'll play college soccer, but said he expects to play in Omaha at either UNO or Creighton unless something “strange or absurd” happens.
Tondl, on the other hand, knows exactly where she'll play in college. The Marian senior fell in love with Texas A&M the minute she got to campus in the fall of her junior year.
People had told her she would know what school was right for her almost instantly when she got there.
“That was so true for me,” Tondl said. “The second I stepped on campus, I knew it was the place for me.”
Dominant defenders are rare. Ones with Tondl's leadership and drive are even scarcer.
“Honestly,” said Marian coach Ed Dudley, “I don't think I'll ever have another player like that in my lifetime.”
But Dudley remembers a time when it wasn't as smooth. He laughed as he recalled Tondl's first varsity game as a freshman.
“she stepped on a center back's ankle and she was out for most of the season,” Dudley said. “Not exactly the best start.”
The finish, though, was nearly flawless. In Tondl's final game for the Crusaders, she shut down Lincoln Southeast standout Paige Nielsen in Marian's 1-0 victory in the state championship match.
Plenty of people believed Nielsen was the state's top player entering that night. The North Carolina recruit finished the season with 38 goals and 11 assists.
But most of those same folks changed their tune after Tondl and the Crusader defense put the clamps on Nielsen and company.
“I have to credit the whole back line,” Tondl said. “All four of us in the back, we had some great chemistry. Any of us were capable of doing it.”
Marian registered 17 shutouts on the season, giving up just three goals all year. further proof of Tondl's impact can be seen in the final numbers for Crusaders keeper Taylor Saucier, also a Texas A&M recruit.
In 20 matches, Saucier finished with 40 saves.
“Jackie just runs that back line,” Dudley said. “She really runs the team.”
Playing defense isn't always glamorous. Rarely do you get your name read for shutting a team down. But Tondl chipped in 11 goals and four assists for the Crusaders this year helping out on corner, free and penalty kicks.
She has always embraced the role of stopper, though. in her early soccer days, her father put her on defense because she was the tallest player on the team. She said she was happy to play in the back.
“It kind of came natural to me,” she said. “I take a lot of pride in it. A lot of times defense gets overlooked, but I've gotten over that. But it really shows up when you only give up three goals over a whole season.”
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