Jasper girls look to prove they belong in SIACJuly 22, 2020
BY JONATHAN SAXON
JASPER — Last season was fruitful for the Jasper girls soccer team, who finished 10-7-2 and won a sectional crown. Wildcats coach Michael Donato thought the team had what it took to make it past regionals, but they fell a bit short in a 2-1 loss to Northview. Still, he’s proud of what the team accomplished, and hopes the players can replicate the leadership abilities of last season’s seniors.
“We had a great group of seniors,” Donato said. “I’m hoping that last year’s juniors saw that group and understand what we need on the field. Can they take on some of the qualities that group had?”
Donato has to replace a slew of starters, but he has a lot of confidence in the core that’s coming back for the Wildcats. Seniors Kara Krueger, Addison Clauss, Emma Shelton and Madyson Bradley were all mainstays in the starting lineup, and their experience will be valuable in guiding along the other players as they take on new roles. It’s an open competition for starting roles, and Donato is looking for the hardest workers to fill the vacancies, but he likes how the younger players are pushing the envelope to earn their positions.
“It’s fair game for anyone training this year,” he said. “I’m watching some of the girls that are out here, and a lot of them are stepping up. You can tell they really want positions on the team.”
Donato didn’t think they would be as aggressive upfront as they were last year, but he’s been pleasantly surprised by what he’s seen in some of the scrimmages. A lot of younger players are trying to establish their position and have pushed competition in a way that suggests the team could return to last year’s top form. Donato still thinks they’ll adopt a more possession-based approach to start, but he could see that shifting during the season.
“I think we’re still going to have to be smarter working the ball in possession,” he said. “But who knows how things are going to roll out in a couple weeks. I’m open a little bit from what I’m seeing. There’s a lot of good young players coming up.”
The Wildcats’ biggest focus is fostering a tough competitive environment during practice. Sharpening that edge and sense of urgency is paramount for Donato, as he believes honing the players’ competitive drives in practice is what will allow them to rise to the challenge of hard games against quality opponents during the season.
“We have to have more urgency on the ball,” he said. “They have to be more competitive in practices to push each other. We’re pushing the girls to be hard on each other with the tackles because this is where they have to learn to deal with it and compete against it.”
The Wildcats are new members to the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference, and Donato thinks it’s important for the team to establish that they belong on the field with the likes of Castle and the Evansville schools. Winning is always the goal, but gaining the respect of the new conference is also a top priority that dictates how the Wildcats need to play this year.
“We’re going into the majority of the games as underdogs,” said Donato, whose team starts its season Aug. 15 at Bloomington South. “They have to step on that field and come off as though they competed. The other teams have to know we were out there to play and compete at their level. If they can do that, they’re going to be successful.”
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