Junior Suzanne Wetton blends her technical skill and poise under pressure as an effective defender for the Hannibal girls soccer team.

Suzanne Wetton is the prototype of what the Hannibal girls soccer team looks for in its sweeper.

The junior has served as the last line of defense before goalkeeper Shelby Nelson this season, helping the Lady Pirates secure 16 victories entering Friday's regular season finale.

Wetton not only has the technical foot skills and poise under pressure to excel in one of the most demanding positions in the sport.

The defender also has the right mentality. 

“I just love the feeling of when you have someone dribbling right at you and you can stick 'em or just win the ball and hear everybody cheering for you,” Wetton said. “It's that last moment, you know it's do or die."

Wetton entered the season as a first-time varsity starting player for the Lady Pirates.

From the get-go, Hannibal coach Eric Hill was pleasantly surprised to find she plays like a seasoned veteran.

“We thought there might be some growing pains, but it turns out there really weren't any at all,” Hill said. “Suzanne is playing the position as well as anybody I've ever had play it, especially for her first year doing it.” 

Wetton sought counsel from Kylie Stroud, a 2017 Hannibal graduate who earned all-conference honors at the position. 

Wetton has made a point to gain an edge any way possible.

“I played with Kylie for years and even texted her for some advice and pointers,” she said. “I definitely learned a lot from the past sweepers.” 

Wetton mentioned she and Nelson have a friendship that extends beyond the field — something that helps when they're in a bind on the playing field.

The two share the responsibility of organizing the entire defensive unit.

“I love working with Shelby Nelson,” Wetton said. “She's always communicating and talking with me. I know if I ever have anything pass me, she's got my back. We've just got each other and we're good friends so it's nice having that connection on the field.”

Shelby Stine leads the Lady Pirates as their primary scorer, evidenced by her school record 103 career goals and counting.

Stine is very much a leader by example.

Wetton, on the other hand, has taken on the role of leading with her voice.

“Suzanne is a great leader vocally,” Hill said. “She talks and she speaks up. She's not afraid to speak her mind or get people where they need to be. She's the perfect example of what you need from a sweeper.” 

Wetton relishes the opportunity to play a position that often gets overlooked.

Even on defense, she makes a point of being aggressive. 

“If you're going to go in, you have to go in 100 percent,” Wetton said. “If you miss, you have to get back as hard as you can. You're not going to win everything, but you have to try your best.”

Hannibal has recorded 10 shutouts on the season, including eight in North Central Missouri Conference play. 

The Lady Pirates can secure the outright conference championship with a win at Boonville on Friday. 

Hannibal beat Boonville 4-2 on April 19.

“We're just going to go out and try as hard as we can and we're going to see how it ends up,” Wetton said. “We're pretty confident in how we're going to execute, so I'm excited to play the game.”

Wetton's emergence gives Hill one less thing to be concerned about as his team enters postseason play.

“Suzanne has just been a rock for us back there, not only just so to speak 'sweeping it up' back there but being comfortable and confident on the ball,” he said.