By the looks of it, it would be virtually impossible to tell that Dallas senior Samantha Mazula spent the entire summer in rehabilitating an injury.
In fact, she would have fooled her first-year coach had she not spoken up.
Mazula was everything that Dallas needed in a transition season: a leader, goal-scorer, defender, assist maker, set piece specialist. So much so that she was instrumental in the Mountaineers winning their first district championship since 2014.
The Times Leader chose Mazula as its Girls Soccer Player of the Year for the 2017 season. In fact, with a résumé that features three Times Leader all-star appearances and two all-state nods, it’s been something that Mazula has had her sights on her for some time.
“Being named Player of the Year feels really great,” she said. “Since my first year, I’ve been trying to achieve it. That title is awesome.”
Mazula’s laurel is a testament to a strong work ethic that pushed her through treatment and rehabilitation over the summer. She had to sit out the end of her junior season of track because the labrum in her hip was starting to fray. After months of testing, x-rays and injections, she had to push herself to get back into soccer shape with training to strengthen her core.
“It felt like I had needles stuck into my hip,” Mazula said. “It made me want to get back sooner because I had to work stronger.”
Her coach Nikki Pekarski, who took over for Abe Lewis at Dallas this season, said it was hardly noticeable on the first day of practice.
“Honestly, if she hadn’t told me, I would have no idea,” Pekarski said. “That’s her mentality.”
It resulted in a career-best season for Mazula from the center-mid position. She finished the season with 12 goals, 15 assists and 39 points. For her career, Mazula, who spent the first half of her career as a defender, had 90 points on 29 goals and 32 assists.
Her unselfishness embodies her distinction of being the engine that runs the Dallas midfield. Pekarski said she lived by the team’s five-second rule – if she lost the ball, she wanted it back and would return to defend it.
“Not only on the field but off the field, she was a very important presence on this team,” Pekarski said. “She is someone I could trust and get an honest opinion of something. Just having someone like her, with her leadership qualities, gives me tremendous confidence as a coach. I know that she is on page.”
She scripted the Mountaineers’ defining moment of the season. After crying throughout the pregame ceremonies in the District 2 Class 3A final, Mazula composed herself and scored the game-winning goal on a penalty kick. Dallas went on to a 3-0 victory over Abington Heights.
“I usually just play in the moment so I don’t remember the shot exactly,” Mazula said. “But I do remember the moment where my teammates were rushing to celebrate with me. And it was amazing. It was the best feeling ever.”
Dallas fell in a 1-0 loss to a talented East Pennsboro team in the first round of the PIAA championships. She had a chance to score off of a corner kick in the 45th minute in one of the team’s few scoring chances.
With the books closed on her Wyoming Valley Conference soccer career, Mazula is looking forward to playing at the next level. She plans on playing Division I soccer at either Youngstown State in Ohio or Jackson State in Mississippi. Mazula plans on either double-majoring in sociology and psychology, or focusing on kinesiology.
Mazula penned the mantra of ‘come out strong; come out fast” that the team used as motivation all season. While Mazula is dreading having to say goodbye to her nine fellow seniors that have become so close-knit through two district titles, her coach says that her insistence on making her teammates better through perfecting her passes will influence Dallas in the long run.
Mazula and Lake-Lehman’s Mackenzie Love were the all-state recipients for each of the past two seasons.
Mazula is the daughter of Linda and resides in Dallas. She has a younger brother named Michael. Mazula also competes in sprints and jump events for the Dallas track team.