Resolute Cats battle but can’t catch Bulldogs

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Jasper senior Sara Hopf struggled to watch the final moments of the Class 2A girls soccer sectional championship on Saturday in Floyds Knobs. The Wildcats’ bid for a sectional title was foiled in the championship for the second straight season as New Albany picked up a 1-0 victory to win its first sectional crown. For a gallery of photos, click here.


By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer

FLOYDS KNOBS — As the ball was played into the box with 20 minutes remaining, Jasper goalkeeper Shannon Sonderman did what she always does. She habitually knocked the ball down and pounced on it.

Sonderman

As she converged on the loose treasure, a knee simultaneously met her face, sending her to the ground momentarily.

Shaken but not stirred.

Sonderman recovered from the collision and carried on, epitomizing the tenacity and unwavering attitude that elevated the Jasper girls soccer team to the sectional championship match in the first place.

And despite surrendering the match’s lone goal on a second-half, coast-to-coast dribbling clinic by New Albany do-everything defender Tanner Marcum, the Wildcats exemplified their seasonlong mantra in Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to the Bulldogs in the Class 2A sectional championship at Floyd Central.

Sonderman amassed at least a half-dozen saves and smothered a collection of Bulldog through-balls sent into the box, putting her body on the line on more than one occasion. But really, that’s become her identity, Wildcat coach Anthony Price said.

“She’s just toughness, personified,” Price said. “If she wasn’t willing to stick her face down where all the cleats were all the time, she wouldn’t be nearly the player she is.”
The Wildcat defense was equally stable, silencing the Bulldog attack albeit for one 10-second span.

Marcum received the ball just inside Bulldog territory with 35 minutes to play. She then zigzagged through a host of lunging Wildcat defenders before ripping a shot from just inside the 18-yard box that sizzled into the left side of the net.

Defensively, Marcum’s efforts helped New Albany (11-4-2) stymie a Jasper offense that came into the contest averaging almost three goals per game. The Wildcats’ first shot on goal didn’t arrive until the 44th minute of the match.

Yet the shot scarcity seemed to only heighten Jasper’s offensive hunger. The Wildcats (10-6-2) created a bevy of late-game chances in their attacking third of the field, even bringing defenders like Lyndsey Korn into the mix.

Jasper’s best scoring chance came in the final 10 minutes, when Emily Jones slotted a ball into the box to a streaking Erin Moser on the right side. However, Marcum tracked down the pass and hammered the ball out of play before colliding with Moser and Bulldog goalkeeper Kaelin Blessinger.

As so often was the case for a Wildcat defense anchored by four of the team’s six seniors, the back line helped keep the game within reach, even after the goal and a suspect yellow card some 14 minutes later.

After an aggressive tackle by Shelby Hopf just outside Jasper’s 18-yard box, which appeared to be equally ball and body, the center official presented uninvolved defender Sara Hopf with a yellow.

Despite the disarray, Jasper prevented its emotions from boiling over and the Cats persisted, a display in self-control that Price said illustrates the seniors’ primary attribute.

“That’s just how we are,” he said. “That’s been the greatest thing about this group. They manage themselves in lots of different ways.”

Theil

The loss marked the end of careers for perhaps Jasper’s two biggest offensive threats in Maria Baer and Alex Verkamp, as well as the four starting defenders — Elizabeth Theil, Shelby Hopf, Sara Hopf and Korn. The group always valued collective success over individual feats, Sonderman said.

“I’ll remember that they aren’t really (about) ‘me.’ They’re about the team. They think about the team, they want to work hard for the team,” Sonderman said.

“Earlier in the season, we were winning games, but it wasn’t necessarily the seniors whose shots were falling. … But they were still supportive and still tried to help (teammates) in whatever way possible in games, in practices and really lifting them up when we were all down.”

If nothing else, the team, and its senior core, found solace in knowing what it left on the field, Theil said.

“For us seniors, (the 80-minute effort) just shows leadership,” she said. “Showing that no matter what, any minute on that field, it could be your last minute. I mean, we could have quit playing but you have to keep pushing through it no matter what. You never know what could happen. You’ve got to push as hard as you possibly can no matter what, win or lose. (The score) might not make a difference but how you played definitely makes a difference in the end.”

Price echoed the sentiment.

“They played their hearts out.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.




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