Mountainous depth provides ample opportunities

By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer

JASPER — By the time the second half of play had well matured, and Jasper continued to ping combination passes together, it became evident which team had fresher legs.

When a team rotates more players (18) into a game than the opposition has available on its roster, the rationale for such an unevenness becomes simple.

Depth helps. Quality depth kills.

Despite a slow opening 20 minutes, in which neither team had a shot on goal, the Wildcats began finding their groove. After notching a pair of goals before the intermission whistle, Jasper never looked back, dismissing injury-stricken Northeast Dubois 3-0 at the Jasper High School Soccer Complex on a balmy Thursday evening.

The Wildcats (5-4) integrated a bounty of players into the mix, many of whom were playing the second match of their varsity careers. Yet any concern regarding the fusion of experience with the not-so-much was dismissed well before the final whistle.

“We go to that bench, we’re talking a lot of freshmen with a few sophomores,” Jasper coach Anthony Price said. “So I’m really happy with the way those young kids have become one with our older group. … For them to step up and fit in is a testament to the work ethic they’ve had this year.”

As the Wildcats’ first substitution of the contest, freshman Natalie Schnarr highlighted the point in the 22nd minute when she snapped a header off an Emily Jones corner kick above the goalkeeper’s head before she had time to react.

Schnarr

In her mind, she’s just fulfilling a necessity.

“This is my first high school experience,” said Schnarr, who helped filled the void of having Alex Verkamp sidelined with an Achilles injury. “And I’ve grown. With all of our really good players getting hurt, I feel like the other players have stepped up and taken their role.”

The outside midfielder, who slipped in a second tally off a Jones cross in the waning minutes of the match, was one of the Wildcats playing for the second time in a varsity match. Even last weekend, she didn’t travel with the team to the Hoosier Cup in Bloomington.

The weekend showcase, however, placed squarely in the middle of a five-games-in-five-days stretch, left Jasper a bit banged up, making Thursday’s search for able bodies all the more satisfying, forward Maria Baer said.

“We’ve had a lot of spontaneous injuries,” said the forward, who rifled in the team’s second goal with eight minutes to play before halftime. “And we’ve had depth on the bench, which has been great because these people can come in and we can keep our level of play up and it hasn’t really affected us.”

The Wildcats planted 17 shots on goal in the match. The offense flowed. Players moved, combined and created scoring chances, evidenced by Elizabeth Theil’s assist on Baer’s goal. Yet the finishing touches proved trickier.

Jeep goalkeeper Katie Kluesner remained once again obstructive, turning away 14 shots, including two sliding saves, both on shots from a slashing Elizabeth Day.

“(My teammates) warmed me up and instincts kicked in, I guess,” said Kluesner on her preparation for the match.

Price expressed his feelings of Kluesner more directly: “We love her skill set, we hate playing against her.”

The Jeeps (4-3) almost cut the deficit in half midway through the second frame when Ashton Knies slotted a penalty kick, but the goal was disallowed on an encroachment call.

From there, despite efforts from striker Alicia Betz, defender Kendra Schroering and Knies, the Wildcats’ blending of personnel and passing proved irrepressible, Northeast Dubois coach Katie Layou said.

“It was continuous triangles,” she said. “Their speed is there. … They had fresh girls constantly and I had six girls that were hurt.”

Ironically, it’s the speed at which they pass and move that Price, Baer and Schnarr all labeled as the focal point for improvement going forward.

“We need to work on strength and conditioning a little more to get our speed up and keep possession,” Schnarr said.

But for the moment, the Wildcats will gladly slow down, at least in regard to the schedule.

“I definitely feel the toll it took on our bodies,” Baer said of last week’s stretch. “Especially the last game on Saturday. We were all dead. But we pushed through. It’s nice giving our bodies a break.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.

 




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