Can’t hate ’em now: Revived Rangers roll onOctober 11, 2013
By JOSEPH FANELLI
Herald Sports Writer
BRETZVILLE — Forest Park senior Cassie Dilger does not appreciate the haters.
They doubted Dilger and the rest of the Ranger girls soccer team this season. They didn’t believe. Although, after a 1-6 start, which included a 10-0 defeat to Class 1A No. 1 Evansville Mater Dei, they may have had a point.
But, nearly two months later, with the Rangers one game away from a sectional championship, where are the haters now?
“I guess you could say your haters are your motivators,” Dilger said with a laugh.
It was hard to hate on anything Thursday night, as the Rangers pounced on Salem early and often, pouring on three goals in the first 20 minutes en route to a 6-0 win in the Class 1A sectional semifinals in Bretzville. The Rangers (8-9-1) will face North Harrison — which scored three goals in the second half to advance past Northeast Dubois 3-0 — at 11 a.m. Saturday in their fourth straight appearance in the sectional final. The championship will be a rematch of the Rangers’ early-season 3-2 loss to the Lady Cats, although you’d be hard-pressed to find many similarities between Forest Park then and Forest Park now.
Madisyn Hunt led the Rangers with another multi-goal performance, her ninth of the season. On her first goal — Forest Park’s second of the night — Hunt received the ball, shook a defender with a long dribble to her right and then fired the ball back toward the left post. For her second score, the Rangers’ final goal, she entered the 18-yard box from the right side of the field, dribbled to her left and then drove the ball through two defenders with a left-footed rocket.
“She’s so good she can just dribble in between people,” Ranger coach Amanda Sicard said. “When she feels it, she feels it.
“There’s only so much you can say about Madisyn,” she added with an amused shrug.
But the difference Thursday, and in the second half of the season, was the play from the rest of the Rangers. Four other girls scored in a showcase of offensive attacks. Madison Knies scored on a 30-yard chip shot that sailed over the keeper’s head. Shayna King and Autumn Recker both hustled to punch in deflected shots. And freshman Shelby Louden took advantage of a befuddled Lion defense searching to find the ball and launched a laser from inside the 18-yard box.
“I just told (the girls), we’re coming out with no mercy. We’re going to score, score, score,” Sicard said. “And they did in the first half. It took us a little bit to get shots on (target), and then they finally went in one after the other.”
The improvement has come gradually, but is arriving at the perfect time. What once felt like a one-girl show is turning into crisp, functioning offense.
“In the beginning, we had a lot of freshmen come in and it was just hard figuring out how to play with (everyone),” Dilger said. “That’s why the beginning of the season was really rough ... and we were playing hard teams. But once we figured that out, we started all clicking together.”
Dilger, who just missed finishing a header on a cross from Knies in the second half, never had a doubt.
“I had faith in us and I knew we had talent,” Dilger said. “It was just a matter of showing everyone. And now we get our chance to shine and show all people that doubted us that we can do it.”
Sicard said she’s confident in her team and their ability to beat North Harrison (12-3) this time around. Still, the Lady Cats’ inclusion in the championship meant the end of a season for Northeast Dubois.
After playing to a draw through the first half, two quick Cougar goals in a span of five minutes early in the second half put an already struggling Jeep offense in a precarious situation.
“I tell them that all the time: After the first goal there is always a goal within the next five minutes,” Layou said. “It’s happened every time that someone scores first (against us) and they let it happen again.”
Things turned even worse when Northeast Dubois (4-5-2), already playing without starting stopper Taryn Friedman out with a sprained ankle, lost Alicia Betz, the Jeeps’ leading scorer who went down with muscle cramps with 25 minutes left and didn’t return to the game. North Harrison tacked on more goal from speedy striker Shelby Austin, effectively ending any chance at a comeback.
Layou is already thinking about the chaos of replacing her eight seniors, including Katie Kluesner, the Jeeps’ four-year starter at goalkeeper. But ultimately, she commended her team for their hard work in the final game of an up-and-down season.
“They played tough the whole game, the whole year,” Layou said. “And that’s all you can do.”
The Rangers are looking forward to the rematch with North Harrison, especially considering how lopsided the Aug. 31 matchup felt. Sicard said Forest Park outshot the Cougars 30-5 and still came out with a one-goal loss. The Rangers will get their second chance Saturday at 11 a.m. in Bretzville.
“I know the girls really want that win,” Sicard said. “From that game to now, we have improved dramatically. We’re not cocky by any means, but we’re confident now. I’m confident in my girls.”
Contact Joseph Fanelli at firstname.lastname@example.org
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