Jasper girls continue sectional dynastyOctober 9, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
JASPER - Somebody who blinked at the start of Saturday's Sectional 30 championship match might've missed Jasper getting off to a 2-0 lead against Vincennes Lincoln.
Well, maybe not literally, but the Wildcats (7-10) indeed found themselves ahead by two within the first five minutes of the game thanks to a couple of quickies from junior forward Reagan Fortwendel. Fortwendel had a hat trick before halftime, and that helped make a huge difference in the team's 5-2 championship win.
"It was great to come out and put three away in the first half so we were up and we had a buffer," Fortwendel said. "I feel great."
"She just kicked it into another gear down there - down that right side," Wildcats coach Michael Donato said.
This made it a third straight sectional championship for Jasper girls soccer, and the fourth for the program in the past five seasons. The Wildcats don't typically have strong regular seasons, but Fortwendel attested to The Herald Saturday night that the regular season is simply practice for sectional week.
So, she went into the dress-up days and the team bonding that Jasper does for the week of sectionals. Fortwendel talked about the team dressing up as Donato on Oct. 4, calling it, "Michael Monday." Oct. 5 featured the team donning cowboy hats and flannel, plus Halloween costumes on Friday.
Fortwendel's costume was as a bumble bee.
"I think it really helped because we had a lot of fun and we came closer as a team," she said. "And whenever you have a good team bonding, you play better together."
Donato said Friday's practice entailed sustaining a positive attitude to keep the energy up, which clearly radiated once play began against the Alices.
Sophomore forward Lilly Rasche starred with two goals in Thursday's semifinal game against Washington, and she tried for another sectional goal early in this one. However, scored on the rebound for an early 1-0 lead with 37:33 to go in the opening half.
All of a sudden, she had another one with 35:49 remaining in the first for her second goal in less than two full minutes.
"They came out with the energy to attack quickly - that's what we talked about," Donato said. "We had to get on the scoreboard first to basically not allow the other team to settle in, which would just make it that much more difficult."
It took a while for the Wildcats to pad the lead further, as they couldn't do anything off some corner kicks from senior midfielder Ava Harmon. The Alices had a good ball on Jasper's net that they couldn't get in, while stopping any Wildcat traffic towards their net for a bit. Rasche had another opportunity that rolled to the left, but Fortwendel chimed in one last time with 9:48 to play in the half.
It was the second straight year a Wildcat recorded a hat trick in the sectional championship game against the Alices. The graduated Kara Krueger accomplished the same feat in 2020.
Some stellar play in goal by senior keeper Maggie Hubster allowed the Wildcats to keep the Alices at bay and extend their lead to 4-0 when sophomore forward Lillian Hulsman notched her second goal of the sectional with 22:21 remaining in the game. Huslman also had Jasper's final goal of the night for a 5-0 lead to put the running clock in effect.
However, the Wildcats couldn't preserve the shutout. They replaced Hubster in net for sophomore Laine Mullins, who allowed a couple of goals to Alices senior midfielder/forward Sierra Mullins - which did not stop the running clock.
Donato did not blame Laine for the goals, but Hubster came back in not long after it was 5-2.
"Our defending fell apart," he said. "There were some key things that we talked about at the beginning of the game, and they started letting it slide. It put our backup keeper, Laine, in a bad situation - it wasn't fair to her. So, that's really what it was. That's why I ended up pulling her out of there, putting Maggie back in, just to not make it a horrible experience for her."
However, the Alices never drew closer, and Fortwendel nearly had her fourth goal nearly two minutes before the game was over, but she couldn't get it to go.
Donato felt the defensive breakdowns were more mental than anything, and he thinks the mental side of things will be crucial. The Wildcats are set to play in the regional semifinal Wednesday at Northview after the Knights won the Sectional 29 title Saturday with a 5-0 win against host Owen Valley.
"I'm just happy for the ladies," Donato said.
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