Balanced Cats strike all the right notesSeptember 13, 2017
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
JASPER — Wrestlers have entrance music, baseball players have walk-up tunes, but the Jasper girls soccer team? The Wildcats have an entire marching band.
And if their 3-0 victory Tuesday against Heritage Hills was any indication, the surprising upswing in dramatic sound effects supplemented the action on the pitch.
“They kinda just creep up on you and it starts to feel like you’re playing in a movie,” said junior Gabby Budd, who assisted Regan Mundy on the second goal of the evening for the Cats. “Every time I hear the drums get louder I’m like, ‘Wait, is that thunder?’ But then I realize it’s just (the band) and it starts to get you pumped up.”
The Jasper Marching Wildcats practice in the parking lot adjacent to the field in preparation for upcoming competitions, but for the girls, it feels like they have their own personal soundtrack blasting throughout the entire match.
While the Wildcats may have played a little quiet to start the match, once the intensity from the saxophones and trumpets began to crescendo next door so did the intensity on the field. Connections on short passes began to come with ease, and once Hannah Love put in the first goal of the night at the 18:05 mark in the first half on one of Mundy’s two assists, the confidence kept swelling for Jasper (7-4-1).
“I think our playing style has revolved around more passing and not as much clearing the ball,” Budd said. “It’s almost like we’re just playing a giant game of keepaway while keeping forward momentum at the same time.”
The Wildcats have also focused on incorporating more girls into the offense this season and getting many different players to score goals and contribute in the attack.
Even though Jasper’s three goal-scorers in Tuesday’s win (Love has six, Olivia Ruckriegel has seven and Mundy has eight) are the team leaders in scoring on the season, there’s been an increase in spreading the ball around to get different girls more touches than they might have gotten in the past.
“I think a lot of teams just like to play the ‘kick and run’ game, but we’ve been able to build up possession and play as a team and not have to rely on one girl,” Ruckriegel said. “It’s pretty soccer. We all trust each other so much and it just feels good to have a well-rounded team.”
While the offensive players may get most of the spotlight with the flashy passing and the scoring opportunities, for Jasper coach Michael Donato it’s been the gritty play of the back line — in particular, senior Emily Kuhlman, who rebuffed many Patriot scoring opportunities Tuesday.
“I feel like whenever the ball is in her area, you almost take it for granted that she’s going to end up with it,” Donato said. “She’s always there to get the ball and cover for any other players if she has to. Her and Summer (Herzog) work nice off each other and Alyssa (Skorge) and Leah (Schnell) hold down the endurance on our back line and can also help support our attack as well.”
On the other side, Heritage Hills coach Andy Fischer was impressed with one of the members of his defensive group as well.
Fischer had noticed junior Ali Wade shying away from 50/50 balls earlier in the season, but Tuesday night it was a different story for Wade and the Pats (7-3).
“I’ve challenged her to be a force in the middle, contain defensively and win the ball out of the air and she did that tonight,” Fischer said. “Jasper was just able to do a good job of controlling the tempo and that threw us for a bit of a funk. This was one of those games where I felt like we needed to have a little bit of luck to get momentum going on our side, and I just don’t think we ever got that.”
For the Wildcats, they started the season in a bit of a gloomy spell after losing 10-0 to Bloomington South in the season opener. But recently, there’s been a different vibe around the Jasper High School Soccer Complex even after losses to tough teams such as Class 3A No. 5 Castle and Evansville Central.
Reason for the sudden swing in attitude shift?
“I think if anything, we were too comfortable at the beginning of the season,” Budd said. “We know that we can’t have a predetermined judgment on how a game is going to be before we play it, and I think that’s why we’ve started coming after these recent games so hard because we were humbled early on by the big loss.”
But as long as the both the soccer Wildcats and the Marching Wildcats are playing the right notes, it’ll create the type of harmony Jasper likes.
“Other teams will come up to us and say, ‘They’re playing the whole time,’ and I’m just like, ‘Oh, I know,” Ruckriegel said with a laugh. “It’s nice to have a little background music.”
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