Jasper soccer to focus on defense in 2020

Kaiti Sullivan/The Herald
Junior Dylan Hopf is one of the regular Jasper starters returning to the soccer field this year.


JASPER — The Jasper boys soccer team went through two phases last year.

The Wildcats experienced an up-and-down regular season where they looked sharp in one game, then seemed out of sorts in the next contest. But things fell into place at the start of the sectional tournament, and the Wildcats rode the hot streak to a sectional title before falling to the Southport Cardinals in regionals. Wildcats coach Kyle Kendall wishes the team could have turned a few of the close losses into Ws, but he credits those games with toughening the team for its postseason run.

“I thought it was a great season for us,” said Kendall, whose Wildcats finished 11-5-4. “We had a lot of things that had fallen into place at the right time and turned into a really good team. All our games were close games, which made us ready for the tournament.”

The Wildcats graduated six starters from last year’s team, so there will be a great deal of reshuffling for the fall. But everyone is excited to get back to work, with Kendall estimating that more than 90% of his players are showing up for July practices. Kendall said the style of play will be different, and thinks the team’s strength lies in its front and midfield players, but he’ll be moving kids around to see what works best before they open Aug. 15 at Seymour.

The Wildcats return four regular starters in seniors Ajay and Alex Sermersheim, and juniors Sam Leonard and Dylan Hopf. Senior Isaac Mehringer also started a few games last year, and seniors Tony Menjivar, Brayden Schue and Jaime Guillen all played significant minutes in the sectional tournament. Senior Geraldo De La Rosa and junior Robert White will be in competition at goalkeeper.

Defense is the main priority for the Wildcats. Kendall isn’t interested in trying to turn every game into a shootout, and has set the mark at allowing one goal or less a contest. Even if Jasper’s offense isn’t as potent as it was last year, Kendall thinks that can be offset with a stout resolve to keep the ball out of the net.

“If we score two goals, we need to win,” he said. “We can’t go out and tie games or lose games 3-2.”

Kendall has high hopes for the Wildcats, and thinks they’re capable of earning double-digit wins by the time the sectional tournament comes around. The big keys will be keeping everyone healthy and developing at a pace that sees them playing their best soccer going into the postseason. Another thing he wants the team to keep in mind is the magical count — 3-0.

“To win a sectional, you just have to win three games,” he said. “If we can do that multiple times throughout the season, hopefully we’re in a spot where we can do that those three days in the tournament.”

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