Younger Dowagiac’s last line of defense

Published 8:44 am Thursday, May 12, 2016

Dowagiac keeper Grace Younger has already made 162 saves this season. (Leader photo/KELLY SWEENEY)

Dowagiac keeper Grace Younger has already made 162 saves this season. (Leader photo/KELLY SWEENEY)

Grace Younger has gone from the dancer to a dandy soccer goalkeeper.

One really led her to the other.

The Dowagiac Union High School junior took the time tell her story after making 14 more saves Monday, in a 3-0 loss at Edwardsburg to raise her 2016 season total to 162.

Her eighth grade year, Younger found out she had Snapping Hip Syndrome aka “dancer’s hip.”

That makes sense since she was a dancer from the ages of 3 to 13. All the stretching — splits and other acrobatic moves associated with dance — led to the condition.

“It hurts my knees and hips really badly when I run,” Younger said. “I can pop my hips really loudly and it effects me when I run. Goalie means not as much running so I can still play the sport I love.”

Younger began playing soccer at age 5 in the American Youth Soccer Organization in Dowagiac.

“My mom was my first coach,” the daughter of Sherry and David Younger said. “We played for the Purple Parrots in AYSO.”

Grace was also active showing horses and she played volleyball in grades 6-8.

But her hips hurt really bad from running. Her eighth grade soccer coach, Rob True, knew that and moved her from midfield and goalie.

“I ended up liking it so I stuck with it,” Younger said.

With help from Dowagiac head girls coach Ryan Haines as well as Matt Haines and Chieftains head boys soccer coach Mike Williams and physical therapy exercises, she’s also become pretty good at it.

They have taught her things like lifting her leg on an air ball in order to protect herself.

“Travel ball in goal has made her better,” Ryan Haines said. “The harder she works, the better she’s going to be. She realizes that.”

What does Grace think about when she’s between the pipes for the Chieftains?

“I just try to keep my head in the game and not become distracted,” Younger said. “I focus on the ball and make sure my defense is on their marks. Sometimes they might not see that a chick is coming in behind them and trying to kick the ball so I have to inform them.”

Good goalkeepers are also good multi-taskers and readers of the action in front of them..

“It’s all about angles — where to stop the ball, where to dive, where to get rid of the ball (distribution),” Haines said. “There’s so much with a goalkeeper. It’s the most important position of the 11. They see everything. She’s getting to that point.

“She keeps us in a lot of these games.”