The Watertown-Mayer girls soccer team has made huge strides over recent seasons, going from a team that won its first ever playoff game to reaching the section championship over the course of just a few years. A big part of that success is the depth of talent they have, and coach Joseph Perez likes to remind players to be ready for their moment, because at anytime, they can get an opportunity and run away with it, as personified by Maris Heun. In eighth grade, Heun was called up to play with the varsity squad, and while there were plenty of second guessers, the move quickly paid off.
“I made the decision to put her on the varsity squad and I know I had a lot of faces looking at me, second guessers, and even my coaching staff was like, ‘Are you sure that you want to do this?’” Perez said. “There were a lot of second guessers saying she is young, she is small, but there was something about her that I knew she was going to be a good addition.”
Heun quickly took to the varsity squad and found a role, not falling to the pressures of being called up early as a middle school player playing side by side with seniors.
“I was just really happy because when I was on the varsity team in eighth grade, they were all older than me, so I looked up to those girls and they were just the best thing in my book,” said Heun.
As the season progressed, Heun tallied timely goals, including a game winner against Mound Westonka. Midway through the season, the eighth grade winger got a chance to join the starting lineup when another player forgot her jersey for the game. Coach Perez now tells this story to every player to make sure they are ready for their opportunity, because Heun took advantage of the situation, launching a historic career.
“Maris started that game, she scores two goals in the first half and she hasn’t looked back since,” said Perez. “Maris took advantage of it and she’s been starting ever since.”
After earning the starting spot, Heun has piled up the stats over 4 years for the Royals, becoming the school’s all-time leader in goals, assists and points midway through her junior year.
“It’s fun to set personal goals for yourself besides team goals to help you out a bit and give you more motivation,” Heun said of reaching the mark. “It was definitely something in the back of my mind that I was shooting for this season, so I was really happy I got it this year.”
Perez credits Heun’s achievement to her hard work and dedication.
“The thing with her is that she is a very driven, focused and determined player,” he said. “You wish you could find that on every player, but there are only a few out there with that mindset - when they set their mind to it that is what they want to do. Once you get her out on that field, man she is just a different type of player, her brain works a whole lot different.”
It is not often that a player rewrites the history books, and it is even more scarce to see someone set record in both goals and assists. But Heun’s game plays perfectly to tally records in both categories. Her goal is to support her teammates and do whatever it takes to win, while her creativity on the field creates scoring chances for everyone.
“Her goals come a lot of times from creativity - she plays the ball to others and then they give it right back to her,” Perez said. “She is a really fast players and a lot of others don’t realize how fast she actually is, but once she puts that ball on her left foot, its deadly. I see it a lot at practice and wonder, ‘How do you do that so quickly.”
As a wing player, Heun has to create from the edge of the field, looking to support others inside while also looking to find scoring opportunities from a position without a good look on the goal.
“[Playing as a wing], it takes a lot of versatility - you’re not a forward, you’re not going to be scoring every goal, you’re not going to be dribbling it up the field every single time,” She said. “You’ve got to look for people, you can’t just take it up the side because the goal is not in the corner. You’ve got be willing to pass, you’ve got to talk, you’ve got to be willing to make those runs even if it is exhausting going from [one 18 yard box to the other].”
And Heun has found all of this success while often being one of the smaller players on the field. She said in this area, her background as a gymnast (a sport in which she has competed at the state meet) helps give her the edge.
“As a a gymnast, you’re trained to fall without hurting yourself, which helps because I was and still am a smaller player compared to other girls who have the size on me, so I do get beaten on a lot,” she said.
Her small stature may have taken teams by surprise in previous years, but Heun is now a priority for teams looking to gameplan against the Royals. With multiple colleges recruiting her and Heun’s target on being considered for Ms. Soccer (the top senior soccer player in the state), in addition to her eyes set on 50 career goals (just 10 more), her reputation is quickly spreading.
“By this year, teams were prepping, teams were aware of who she is and how to mark her, but she still finds a way to be productive and get away from personal marking,” said Perez. “There were teams that were trying to box her in and she would just find away. If she wasn’t able to score, she would get assists. She was just always involved.”
Heun’s reputation for finding a way to get past a strong defense was key in Watertown-Mayer’s historic win over Orono this past season. The Royals had never defeated the Spartans, a perennial powerhouse that was fresh off of an appearance in the Class A State Championship. But Heun’s three goals proved to be the difference in Watertown-Mayer’s 3-2 win.
“You could tell that some of those goals came where she was just determined to be at that spot, that’s just her mentality,” Perez said. “Her mentality was that we are going to win this game somehow. Even when they tied it 2-2 with like 6 minutes left, she was the first one at the midfield and ready to go because she didn’t want to lose that game.”
And funny oddly enough, competing against one of the best teams in the state was one of the few times Heun got a hat trick. Though she has 40 goals in her 4 years on varsity, her high-scoring games usually stop at two goals, with the third being elusive. Yet against the Spartans, Heun finally got a hat trick with the late winner to give the Royals and her one of their fondest memories.
“It was amazing, I was am really happy that my team and I were able to pull it off,” she said.
Over her 4 years on the team, Heun has grown with the program, as the Royals went from never posting a winning record to being ranked in the top-10 in the state. Perez said her first start on varsity is a good example of players needing to be ready for the moment, but her team-first attitude in doing whatever is needed – be it goals, assists or supporting the midfield – personifies what the Watertown-Mayer soccer program is about and has led to their recent success.
“I have gotten to see the program grow and the girls come together and become one team,” she said. “There is not a difference between middle school, JV and varsity. We all support each other and we all are after one goal - which is to represent our school.”