Edina’s Maddie Dahlien, the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year in girls’ soccer, is competitive and tenacious in almost everything she does. (Jerry Holt, Star Tribune)
The best day of Maddie Dahlien’s life occurred at age 13, when she finally beat her father Matt at the card game Uno.
Perhaps a more telling competitive milestone happened about three years earlier, when she interrupted their bicycle ride home from her soccer game and challenged him to a foot race. Matt, who didn’t and still doesn’t just let Maddie win at anything, figured his longer legs would be enough to win this 50-ish-yard sprint near the Concord Elementary School playground in Edina.
Crossing the finish line with an ample cushion, Maddie turned and started screaming with glee, “I beat you, Dad!”
Emotion cracked Matt’s voice as he remembered, “I gave her everything I had. I could see she had a different gear.”
High school soccer opponents know the feeling. Dahlien’s speed, skill and tenacious approach make her nearly impossible to deny. Dahlien, the Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year, has 34 goals and leads undefeated and top-ranked Edina into the Class 3A tournament semifinals Thursday.
“She is the best soccer player in the state and the single biggest reason we’ve gone undefeated to this point,” Hornets coach Katie Aafedt said. “We’ve known she was special since ninth grade.”
Tony Pesznecker, an Edina Soccer Club coach outside of directing the Wayzata girls’ varsity soccer program, knew even sooner. He told Dahlien she would start for the Hornets as a freshman.
Dahlien replied, “I’m going to break your heart.”
Dahlien went 6-2 against the Trojans in her career. She won the Ms. Soccer Award for Class 3A this season and thanked Pesznecker during her speech, for how much she enjoyed playing against his teams and his hugs after those games.
Learning to embrace teammates helped Dahlien unlock her full potential.
“My freshman and sophomore seasons, I was more of an individual,” Dahlien said. “Katie told me to play for my teammates and a state championship and everything else will come with it.”
One of three captains this season, Dahlien has also benefited from Aafedt’s tutelage on what it means to be a higher-profile female athlete. In July 2019, Dahlien make a verbal commitment to play at North Carolina. Less than a year later, she became the state’s fastest female as a junior. She swept the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes at the Class 2A meet. No thanks to her father’s genetics.
“She used to a bring a lot of pressure and expectations on herself,” said Aafedt, an Edina graduate and standout soccer player at Gustavus Adolphus. “We had to keep it in the frame of, ‘I love this sport.’”
As she matured, Dahlien said she “learned to worry about what I control, which is what’s inside the lines.”