Cats, Pats tie on soccer field

Photos by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Heritage Hills junior Derek Fortune (16) controls the ball during the first of play Thursday against Jasper. Wildcats sophomore Zack Pieper (15) tries to get it away from him. The Wildcats and Patriots tied, 2-2.

By COREY STOLZENBACH
sports@dcherald.com

LINCOLN CITY — An inauspicious start proved salvageable as Jasper tied Heritage Hills, 2-2, on Thursday.

The Wildcats (2-4-2) allowed the Patriots (4-3-2) to score a couple of goals in the first seven minutes of play. Junior Jose Lara got the ball past Jasper senior goalkeeper Geo De La Rosa less than 90 seconds in at the 38:56 point of the first half. Junior Ethan Hill added an insurance goal for the Patriots at 33:08.

"Both times, we had some really good effort on some free balls, and those guys are awfully good athletes," Pats coach Joe Asbury said. "They were able to slip through and then have some composure and finish. Obviously, that's a nice way to start the game, and I'm proud of the kids for coming out and being ready to go in the first five minutes."

Jasper coach Kyle Kendall noted the Pats made some plays up the middle with some speed on the ball that his Wildcats were not able to get a touch on. Kendall thought Jasper controlled the game early, but Heritage Hills got two counter attacks and transitions.

The Wildcats found their way back, however, and attacked more on net as the first half progressed. Junior Sam Leonard got them on the board with 24:58 to play in the opening half to reduce the Pats' lead to 2-1.

However, Heritage Hills sophomore keeper Aiden Harris held Jasper at bay for the remainder of the half. His stops against Jasper especially with just more than 7:30 to play garnered a round of applause from the Heritage Hills faithful that stopped the Wildcats from tying it.

"That was a real big play there where they struck it hard and he was able to get some hands on it, and then he got back up and made another attempt," Asbury said. "He's played well. There's times where we want him to be a little bit more aggressive coming off his line, and for a sophomore in a varsity game here with a lot of intensity, he did a nice job."

Heritage Hills had an opportunity to extend its lead once more in the second half. Lara tried for his second goal of the game on a penalty shot, but his kick sailed wide of the net that kept the score as it was, 2-1.

Junior Ethan Hill (10, left) celebrates his goal with junior Derek Fortune (16, center) and sophomore Israel Martinez (19, right) that gave the Patriots a 2-0 lead at 33:08 in the first half.

"He just pulled it a little bit," Asbury said. "He's going to make that nine times out of 10, and today wasn't meant to be, but we'll put him up there next time we get a chance."

That left an opening for the Wildcats, who officially put that 2-0 deficit behind them with 6:38 left to play when senior Tony Menjivar's goal tied it and brought the game to its final score.

"As many good looks as we got today, that was not the best look we got, but Tony does a good job of just being in the right place at the right time and making sure he made a play," Kendall said.

Jasper had a chance to win the game as senior Dylan Hopf got a shot off with less than a minute to play, but it sailed over the Heritage Hills net.

Asbury was proud how hard his players played, and said they'll learn from Thursday. He is looking for the midfield to improve its defense before the next time the team takes the field Sep. 15 at Evansville Harrison. He wants the Pats to keep their shape in the midfield when they lose the ball, and the pressure needs to be better.

He added, though, that it's a tough balance, and it's nobody's fault. Asbury noted that Heritage Hills has dealt with injuries this year, and wasn't as deep numbers-wise as Jasper was on Thursday.

"Ethan and Jose, we're patting them on the back for getting those goals at the beginning of the game," he said. "Those are two midfielders, and we have to play that way. We got to have those guys overlapping to create offense for us, but then we also need those guys to play defense in the midfield, and our wings have got to continue to track back and play defense for us in the midfield, that's one thing we're going to try to keep working on our balance of the offensive half to the defensive half."

Kendall noted the Wildcats have to find a way to win close games, and not just the 8-0 performance Aug. 24 against Evansville Central, or 12-0 against Vincennes Lincoln on Tuesday. He talked about the team playing from behind multiple times this year, including on Thursday, and they have to weather the storm early in order to have time to find their rhythm.

Jasper will have a day of practice today before being scheduled to go back at it 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at home against Providence. Kendall said the Wildcats need to keep their composure and stay organized to get the win.

Jasper senior goalkeeper Geo De La Rosa gets a kick off Thursday at Heritage Hills. The Wildcats and Patriots tied, 2-2.

"It might be a little bit of film tomorrow to watch what happened today, to watch back, again, a lot of the goals we've given up in transition," Kendall said. "They've all been very similar, and we've got to find a way to make sure those aren't happening."




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