Cats fall short to Hatchets in heartbreakerOctober 4, 2018
By JONATHAN SAXON
PRINCETON — It was solemn and emotional around the team huddle after Thursday’s girls soccer sectional between Jasper and Washington as head coach Michael Donato did everything he could to comfort his team.
He knew there wasn’t a lot that could be said to soften the sting of such a close loss, but he let his players know that they played in a way that not only represented Jasper well, but also showed how the sport of soccer should be played.
The Washington Hatchets defeated the Jasper Wildcats 1-0 in the sectional semifinal.
“The first half we were down, that second half we could not have done any better,” he said. “We had plenty of opportunities, the ball just didn’t get in. We played simple, we passed the ball around. It looked really nice. As far as the game I’m not upset at all, I thought they did a fantastic job.”
The entire game was a rough and tumble affair on both sides of the field. Jasper (8-8, 3-0) and Washington (10-8-1, 4-1) were both aggressive in their efforts to play the ball, establish position, and create openings for shots on goal.
It wasn’t strange to see players diving and falling all over the grass as they fought for every inch of field position. Even the crowd was feeling the tension, as parents from both sides took turns jawing at each other when they weren’t shouting at the refs for missing a call that would have conveniently helped out their team.
But for all of the blitz and bluster the game played out as an intense defensive struggle. The young ladies on both squads had to work for every dribble, pass, and shot.
Pressure was heavy and the fight for control of the ball was fierce. One or two runners would get past the opposing team’s defensive front every once in awhile, but the fast response to close in on the attackers would inevitably force quick shots which either went astray or found themselves blocked by the goalies.
But Hatchet senior forward Maddie Dant was able to find a sliver to exploit. With about 22 minutes left in the first half, Dant was able to work her way into the penalty area for Washington. Wildcat senior Jessica Cruz stepped out of the net slightly to confront Dant, who took advantage of the opening and shot the ball just past Cruz’s outstretched arms into the net. That single score would be all the difference that was needed between the two teams.
Jasper gathered during halftime and resolved to calm things down and make the game simple in the second half. They wanted to get back to moving as a unit on the field and using short, crisp passes to advance the ball and create scoring opportunities.
They did manage to get more shots for themselves in the second half. But Washington’s freshman goalie Griselda Revolorio stood strong throughout the game, and defended all comers with the skill and grit of a senior. In the end, Jasper was not able to get the shots they needed to win or force overtime.
Donato commended his girls for getting back into their game in the second half instead of scrambling to overcome Washington’s pressure like they were in the first. But the shots just didn’t fall the way the Wildcats wanted during the game.
“We had some really close shots,” Donato said. “Some of the through-balls were really good ideas. I’ll hand it to Washington, they packed in the box and weren’t going to let it open. I think that was a great tactic.”
“We gave it our all and it just didn’t fall through for us,” added senior defensive midfielder Alyssa Skorge. “We just couldn’t get one to hit the net.”
Donato said he was impressed throughout the year with the willingness of the players to be flexible and move around to different positions on the field for the good of the team.
The coach hopes that this experience in sectional will teach the returning players what it takes to make it in the postseason and thinks they will remember the intensity they will have to bring to the field next fall.
“We played Gibson Southern and Washington during the season, you meet them in sectional and it’s a totally different team,” he said. “You can’t take anything for granted, you have to expect to play at your best all the time, because if you don’t it’s not going to work.”
For her part, junior forward Brooke Nottingham can’t wait to comeback next year and reload with the underclassmen the Wildcats will have stepping up next season.
“I think we still have a lot of remaining talent and upcoming talent next year,” she said. “I’m excited to see how we play with them and how we all get along.”
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