Sports Person of the Week
Caulfield Finds Her Calling on Defense
Jeni Caulfield has carved out a spot playing center back for a playoff-bound Valley girls’ soccer squad this fall. Jeni also competes for the Warriors’ indoor and outdoor track teams. (Photo courtesy of Jeni Caulfield)
Jeni Caulfield is proving an integral part in the success of the Valley Regional girls’ soccer team this season. Jeni, a senior center back, plays solid defense for the Warriors by limiting the opposition’s chances in the backfield. With Valley having already qualified for the Class M State Tournament, Jeni wants to continue providing staunch defense as the Warriors compete for a spot in the Shoreline Conference Tournament.
Jeni returned to Valley for her senior season after taking home some major accolades last year. Jeni prides herself on being a team player, but it felt nice to receive those honors all the same.
“Last year, I received the varsity Most Valuable Player Award, and I also got All-Shoreline Honorable Mention. It was a surprise,” says Jeni. “I wasn’t expecting that, but it was nice to receive that kind of recognition, especially as a defender.”
Jeni finds that playing defense is a rewarding experience. Any goal scored is a team goal, and Jeni knows that everyone contributes no matter who puts the ball in the net.
“I think what we go by as defenders is that you win as a team and you lose as a team,” Jeni says. “You never place blame, and you never forget the plays where the goals started.”
Jeni made her way to the pitch by coming from an avid soccer family. Jeni got plenty of practice kicking the ball around in the backyard with her three other siblings—Dan, Kaleigh, and Bonnie—who would pair off and work on their skills while playing family pick-up games.
“With three siblings, we’ve always been competitive. I’m the youngest of the four. We all played soccer through high school. I got to play with Bonnie last year, and that was a good motivator for me,” says Jeni, who also competes for Valley’s track teams. “We always played around in the backyard two-on-two. I think me being the youngest, I would want to play up to their level. So, that always pushed me to work harder.”
Earlier in her career, Jeni had some difficulty scoring on offense, because she had a tough time getting past defenders. However, she had tenacity to spare. So, Jeni found her home on defense by taking the ball away from oncoming opponents.
“I’d say really what pushed me to be a defender was that I lacked the foot skills to get around a player, but a 50-50 ball, I would go in hard,” Jeni says “Like sliding for a ball or kicking it away. You can go in hard and not get hurt like you would on offense.”
As a senior this season, Jeni is invested in the development of the underclass athletes on the Warriors. Jeni wants to establish the groundwork for successful habits that will help them in the future.
“I think it’s really important to focus in practice. The underclassmen really look up to you, and they’ll play up to your standard,” says Jeni, an Essex resident. “If you work hard, they will work hard, but if you fool around, they will see it as they don’t have to work.”
Head Coach Lauren MacDonald appreciates Jeni’s ability to quietly lead as a senior. She also likes that Jeni has a knack for thwarting the opposition’s attack by throwing herself in front of the rush. While the Warriors have been using Jeni as a defender, MacDonald believes that Jeni’s talents go beyond the backfield.
“Jeni is the type of player who leads by example. She is the heart and soul of the defensive line and will be sincerely missed next year,” MacDonald says. “She has the ability to get her body behind every ball. Whether it’s a header, knee, chest, shoulder, she does not let the ball get by her. Jeni could easily play any position asked of her, and that’s one of the best things a soccer player can be—versatile.”
As much as Jeni loves playing soccer, she spends a good portion of the school year competing on the track. As a three-season athlete, Jeni has a packed schedule all year-round, although she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I think doing all these sports actually helps me through school work. After I play a game or go to practice, I’m energetic and ready to get the work done,” Jeni says. “I also like playing varsity sports, because it’s a part of school that’s different than the academic. It’s more social. You get to interact with your peers in a different way.”
Jeni feels proud to be a part of such a successful soccer squad. She wants to finish out her career at Valley by helping the Warriors get as deep into the postseason as possible.
“I think it’s really exciting that we have a shot competing in the Shorelines. We haven’t been able to do that so far,” says Jeni. “It’s important that we prove to Coach Lauren why she wanted to step up to the head coach position and make her proud that she wanted to be part of this team.”