Reeths-Puffer goalie Elysia Mattos may be small, but she has 26 big shutouts

By Steve Gunn

MUSKEGON TOWNSHIP – What were the odds that Elysia Mattos would become a record-breaking soccer goalie?

Unlike most high school players, she never participated in organizedLSJ Logo incert soccer until her freshman year of high school.

And that only happened after she managed to convince her mother to let her play.

“My mom said I would get hurt like she did,” said Mattos, Reeths-Puffer’s third-year starting goalkeeper. “She played in middle school and got hit in the eye and almost lost her sight. But my friend Delaney Bolles’ dad finally talked her into it.”

Reeths-Puffer soccer goalie Elysia Mattos. Photo/Joe Lane

Reeths-Puffer junior goalie Elysia Mattos. Photo/Joe Lane

On top of all of that, Bolles is only 5 feet, 4 inches tall, which is a pretty small frame to defend a big 24-by-8 foot goal.

But Mattos became Reeths-Puffer’s starting goalie in her freshman year, and became very good very fast.

A few weeks ago she set a new school record of 24 career shutouts, and has added two more since then. And she has only allowed four goals through the first nine games this season.

Best of all for the Rockets, Mattos is only a junior. She’ll have another full season to help the Rockets excel on the field and add to her record number of shutouts – even though she says she has no interest in individual milestones.

“Last year people started talking about (the shutout record), but I really didn’t understand what it was all about,” said Mattos, who has been an O-K Black All-Conference goalie for two straight years. “I still don’t care about it. If we get the win we get the win. That’s all that matters.”

Mattos’ goalkeeping career began by accident, after Reeths-Puffer’s standout senior goalie, Gabby Klemp, injured her knee prior to the start of the 2014 season.

Klemp talked Mattos into giving the position a try, even though Mattos was a freshman who was brand new to soccer. Rocket goaltender coach Jen Jordan took her aside and showed her the ropes.

Mattos in action during a recent game. Photo/Joe Lane.

Mattos in action during a recent game. Photo/Joe Lane.

Then Mattos applied her natural athletic skills, and a lot of success soon followed.

“I got asked to play (goalie),” Mattos said. “I tried it my freshman year and it worked out pretty well. It sounded like fun at the time, and it still is.

“I took a while for me to get it down. I have to thank Coach Jen for helping me do it. There’s a lot of hand coordination and footwork. We do a lot of drills during practice to help me with it.”

Reeths-Puffer Coach Jeremy Tjapkes was obviously alarmed when Klemp, who held the previous school record for shutouts, hurt her knee two years ago, and much relieved when he realized he had a freshman who could fill the void.

“Gabby kind of recruited Elysia to help out, and she came to us and said ‘I’ll try,’” Tjapkes said. “Jen Jordan, who has done an amazing job with our goalies over the years, said right away that she thought (Mattos) was going to be good.

“We talk about players having ‘it’ and she’s definitely got it. Her athleticism is so amazing. She plays much bigger than her size.”

Mattos said she’s not intimidated by hard shots from bigger players. Confidence, she says, is the key.

“You have to be somewhere in the middle,” she said. “You don’t want to be too cocky but you have to have confidence.”

Soccer has never been Mattos’ main athletic priority. She’s been playing basketball since her childhood, and is the standout point guard for Reeths-Puffer’s girls basketball team.

She plays basketball year-round, on varsity or travel teams. Soccer is something Mattos does in the spring, to have fun and stay in shape.

“I just like it more, it’s a faster pace,” she said about basketball.

While soccer may be secondary sport for Mattos, the Rockets have had a lot of success during her time in goal.

They have won the O-K Black Conference title for two straight seasons and are off to a 5-1-3 start this season, with a 2-0 conference record.

R-P’s latest victory came Thursday night with a 5-1 win over rival Mona Shores on their home field, with Mattos in goal, of course.

The Reeths-Puffer girls squad has not lost a home game since 2014.

“This might be one of the most well-rounded teams we’ve had at Reeths-Puffer,” Tjapkes said. “We’re really stingy on defense, and we have great leaders and great role players. We hope if we stay healthy good things are going to happen.”

The Rockets will have to be at their best when the postseason tournament rolls around. They have moved up to Division 1 in soccer this year, which puts them in an extremely tough district tournament with the likes of Mona Shores, Grand Haven, West Ottawa, Grandville, Hudsonville and Jenison.

“There are no freebies in there,” Tjapkes said about the tough field of district opponents. “We are the smallest Division 1 school. We missed the (Division 2) cutoff by six students.”

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