Wildcats ends season with a 5-0 romp over RangersOctober 3, 2019
BY JONATHAN SAXON
JASPER — The start of Jasper's season was filled with its fair bit of turbulence, as the Wildcats started with a tie before dropping three straight. However, the Wildcats have used the latter part of their season to produce some of their best performances, and seem to be playing their best soccer at the right time, as evidenced by their 5-0 shutout win over the Forest Park Rangers Thursday night.
Wildcats coach Michael Donato expressed his frustrations about seeing his team bottled up for almost the entire first half, but he commended them on following the halftime adjustments and fighting through the chippiness on the field to get the win.
“We got compressed on one side of the field, and we refused to get out of that side,” he said. “We talked about opening up at halftime, staying more connected and working the ball more horizontally. Things started opening up. The biggest thing was they maintained their composure. There were several situations where it could have gotten into their heads.”
The first half was a tightrope affair as both teams struggled to find the back of the net. The Wildcats (8-7-3, 4-2) and Rangers (10-4-1, 6-1) traded charges to the net, but always seemed to be just a little off when they took their shots. Kicks either sailed past the top crossbar, or each team’s goalie found a way to get in the right spot to make a stop. Along the way, the play in the field was rough, as players on both sides tried to muscle each other out of position and intercept offensive pushes before they created shooting windows.
But the tide shifted slightly in Jasper’s favor in the final 10 seconds of the first half. Senior Reagan Mundy used a corner kick to launch the ball across Forest Park’s goal, where a trio of Wildcats were stationed for a final shot. As the ball sailed toward the group, junior Kara Krueger rose above the fray, connected on the ball with her head, and sent it past sophomore goalkeeper Madison Wathen to put Jasper up 1-0 just before halftime.
The floodgates opened for the Wildcats in the second half. About five minutes in, Kreuger was able to get ahead of the Ranger defensive line, and made a solo charge to the goal. Wathen adopted an aggressive approach to the situation and ran out to meet Krueger at the top of the box. But Krueger slowed down just enough to maneuver around Wathen, and took advantage of an empty net for Jasper’s second goal.
Mundy was the next player to find the net. She weaved her way to the goal and sent a comet shot through the gap for a 3-0 lead. Junior Kylee Vaal also joined in the goal party, tossing one in with 11 and a half minutes to play. Krueger emerged once more with less than 10 minutes in the game to put the final stamp on the match and close out Jasper’s season with a win.
Krueger finished with three goals and an assist, while Mundy had a goal with two assists.
“We competed very well, and we all were connecting,” Mundy said. “Our passes were very sharp, and we worked together as a team. We didn’t get negative on each other, we stayed positive the whole time.”
Rangers coach Brad Weyer thinks his team fell into the trap of looking past the Wildcats toward sectional, and wound paying for it on the field. He thought they played strong in the first half, but the Rangers couldn’t find what they needed to respond to the Wildcat offense.
“The first half, save for the first 10 minutes or so, was our half,” he said. “We had a letdown in the last 10 seconds, which set the tone for the rest of the game. We had a couple of chances early on, but we had bigger letdowns. As soon as they scored, we letdown again, and they got another one right away. It just wasn’t there tonight.”
Thursday night snapped a 10-game win streak for the Rangers, but they’re determined to use the loss as a learning tool so they can bounce back when they take the field Tuesday for their opening round sectional game against the North Posey Vikings (5-11, 2-5).
“It’s a tough loss, but we can either learn from it or let it destroy us,” senior forward Denai Sicard said. “I’m a firm believer in you need a good loss to feel the fire that maybe wouldn’t have come out during sectionals. I hope it motivates our team, and I know we’re capable of more than this.”
Jasper ends its season on a five-game upswing, and is looking toward to using the break to get everyone healthy before the Wildcats play Thursday. It’s been a roller coaster regular season, but the last few games have given the Wildcats a boost in confidence as they look forward to making a run in the postseason.
“It took some hard work and being able to connect to get where we’re at right now,” Mundy said. “We’ve been putting in the work at practice, and we’re ready for sectionals.”
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