Despite slow start, speed leads Wildcats to victory

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Jasper's Aliyah Schwenk goes for the ball during Thursday's girls soccer sectional in Jasper. Jasper defeated Princeton 6-0. For more photos from the game, click here.


JASPER — Moments before the Jasper girls soccer team began its Class 2A sectional showdown against Princeton, the Wildcats wrapped their arms around each other and huddled together near midfield.

The Cats trounced the Tigers 9-1 in a late-August regular season game. But in a do-or-die faceoff at Jasper High School on Thursday night, they knew Princeton would be hungry for revenge.

“Princeton’s gonna want to come out and beat us,” said junior striker Kara Kreuger, recalling what was said in the girls’ pregame discussion. “They are out to beat us. We cannot have the mindset going in that we won and it’s gonna be an easy game.”

That threat never surfaced. Despite a midgame lull, the Wildcats (9-7-3) walked off their home field with a 6-0 smackdown victory.

Jasper opened the game with a flash: A lofted pass by senior defender Kaitlyn Henke landed seamlessly at the feet of junior striker Kara Kreuger near midfield. She sliced up the field and netted the team’s first goal 31 seconds into the contest — the Wildcats’ fastest goal in 2019.

“Sometimes, I’m known for my speed,” said Kreuger. “I like to use it to my advantage.”

She’s just being humble. Her jets would lead her to two more scores and two assists in the second half. But through tough Tiger defense and missed Wildcat chances, Jasper entered halftime with just a single goal lead.

Jasper's Kara Kruger takes a shot on goal during Thursday's girls soccer sectional in Jasper. Jasper defeated Princeton 6-0. For more photos from the game, click here.

Jasper coach Michael Donato said prior to kickoff that his team spent the previous week of practice looking at different ways of attacking the net and firing off shots close to the goal. Jasper initially started strong, but struggled to do those things for most of the first 40 minutes.

Players began shooting — and missing — from further and further away. Confidence swayed. Though it always felt like Jasper was in control, the Tigers were just one bounce away from shifting momentum and tying the match for a good chunk of the contest.

Donato gave the Wildcats a “C” grade in the opening half.

“The second half, though, we talked at halftime and they came out and we did more of what we were looking for,” Donato said. “We really did. It was a nice second half.”

He gave his players an “A” for their work in the second stanza. Seniors Regan Mundy, Brooke Nottingham and Emily Patterson would each tack on goals of their own before the match ended.

When asked about what Kreuger brings to the team, Donato said she “means so much to everybody on the team because they are just as happy when she scores that goal as anybody else out there.”

He praised Princeton (6-9-3) for the team’s tenacity and the effort the players’ gave.

“They played much, much stronger than the last time we played them,” Donato said. “They were competing the whole time. They really were. Some of the games we played them in the past, it was lopsided from the beginning, and this wasn’t the case at all. You could tell they wanted it.”

Jasper Assistant Coach Pete Jesperson said many players on this team had the best game they’ve had all season. The Wildcats have now won seven of their last eight games, and advance to the sectional final on Saturday at JHS. They will play the Washington Hatchets (9-10) at 7 p.m.

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