Jasper welcomes bumps, slips to stifle Rangers

By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer

BRETZVILLE — The preceding days’ rain left Forest Park’s pitch like a soggy sponge, equating to an offensive player’s nightmare — balls skip, traction is lost, unpredictability suppresses.

Korn

Combine that with an officiating crew that enabled the soccer match to be played physically, and Lyndsey Korn loved every minute of it.

The Jasper defender helped suffocate the Rangers’ efforts in their offensive third, putting Jasper in position to net a second-half goal and slide past rival Forest Park 1-0 on a dreary Thursday night in Bretzville.

With four minutes to play in the first half, Korn knocked Ranger striker Holly Buechler to the damp turf on a brawny tackle just outside Jasper’s 18-yard box. The thump defined play in the rivalry’s latest installment, which favored grit over glitz. A physical, periodically slippery affair where scoring opportunities were about as scarce as a dry patch of grass.

Alongside Korn, Wildcat defenders Shelby Hopf, Elizabeth Theil and Sara Hopf sequestered Forest Park’s attack for nearly all 80 minutes. For Jasper coach Anthony Price, it was his defensive unit’s best showing to date.

“I think it might have been the back four’s best game of the year in lots of ways,” Price said. “They played together, they won a lot of balls in the air. … I’m so proud of that defensive effort. All over the place.”

For Korn, it’s the defending group’s cohesion and familiarity with one another that allows them to smother adversaries’ production.

“We stayed together well and we just communicate well and we’ve played those same positions for so long … we just know what to do,” Korn said about a group that’s played together since middle school. “If one of us misses the ball, we’re all there to help back.”

For Jasper (9-5-2), however, its problem was nearly identical to that of Forest Park. Scoring chances were slim, and it wasn’t until the match’s 64th minute that a window to capitalize finally presented itself, as Maria Baer deposited Alex Verkamp’s 30-yard set piece that slipped through the Ranger goalkeeper’s hands.

Verkamp had assisted on a nearly identical free kick in Jasper’s windy 3-2 loss to Evansville North on Saturday. Recognizing the situational similarity led to execution once again, Price said.

For Baer, who elevated her season goal tally to 13, her defensive development has become a crucial asset.

“That’s one of the things that Maria has done a really good job of this year. Learning to become a forward who defends, and starting to force the play,” Price said. “And it helps everybody to get timed behind the ball and helps us get our shape. The game’s a lot easier when the other team’s predictable.”

Stenftenagel

Examples of physical play presented themselves without remit. Annie Stenftenagel carried out a textbook slide tackle in the opening period, sending the ball squirting away and the Ranger attacker head over heels.

In the same period’s waning minutes, Forest Park senior Megan Grundhoefer collided with Wildcat midfielder Lexi Mehringer, sending the freshman into a puddle alongside the touch line.

For the Rangers (6-8-1), who were unable to salvage a result on senior night, the situation is frustrating. For a group rich in talent, its biggest problem is self-induced, Forest Park coach Amanda Gogel said.“ Our girls are playing soccer. They’re dropping the ball, they’re playing through balls,” Gogel said. “But when they play it, they don’t talk. They’re playing to the open space and we have two girls who are like, ‘Is that for me or is that for her?’ And we don’t have anybody going to it. The girls talk all the time. All the time. But they can’t talk soccer.”

Gogel complimented the play of her defense as well — Abby Tempel, Rachel Lueken, Lauren May and Kendall Sherman in the first half — and emphasized the spark provided by Megan Grundhoefer and Amanda Jacob in the midfield, playing in the last home game of their careers.

Grundhoefer

“I just wish (Amanda) and Megan’s energy rubbed off more,” Gogel said. “It’s just that fight in both of them. ... They just have an extra drive.”

Now comes decision time.

“I told them tonight, ‘You’ve got to decide whether you want it or not. The decision is if you’re going to talk or if you’re not. And if you’re not going to talk, you’re not going to win,’” Gogel said.

As far as Korn is concerned, Jasper’s play moving forward revolves around remaining calm and not tampering with the team’s DNA.

For a coach using Thursday’s result as a measuring stick for the Wildcats’ sectional preparedness, some big questions were certainly answered.

“This propels us to the end of the season,” Price said. “I’m excited that they had the fortitude to see the game through. ... Do they have the toughness? Can they win when for a while in the second half, Forest Park was getting a lot of pressure? Do you have the mental strength to turn it on when you need to turn it on? This team did that, and I’m hoping that carries us all the way back to Jasper for regionals and beyond, hopefully.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.




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