No break for Pats on well-worn trail

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Heritage Hills senior  Karaline Staggs celebrated with teammate Greer Neff after a goal Thursday night in Lincoln City, where the Patriots scooted to an 8-1 victory over Northeast Dubois. Five girls scored at least one goal for Heritage Hills, which has outscored its first two opponents 13-1. For a gallery of photos, click here.

Herald Sports Writer

LINCOLN CITY — One time, they went to Denny’s afterward.

That’s about it. Other than that, there was very little instant return. Just the belief that every mile run as the sun began coming up in Lincoln City was a requisite for what the Heritage Hills girls soccer team is looking to accomplish.

Meet at 6:30 in the morning. Four to five miles through Lincoln State Park. Six days a week. The “optional” captains’ conditioning sessions — girls rarely missed — that seniors Breigh Haase and Greer Neff set up for their Patriot comrades surely wasn’t the most cozy way to start the day. But even through the first week of the season, evidenced further by the host Pats’ 8-1 punch past Northeast Dubois on Thursday, rewards of the daily toil are coming to fruition.

Was anyone awake at the start of the runs? Haase laughs. “Well, kinda,” Neff explained. “Maybe not to start off with, but once we tell them where we’re running, it’s kind of like….”

Ugh,” the two captains let out in unrehearsed unison.

Once, the trail running session culminated with some eggs, bacon and toast — “We let them pig out,” Haase said — but other than that, the motivation was rooted in what-could-be for a squad that boasts seven seniors and returns nine starters from last season.

“Honestly, we know we have a lot of potential, especially in the state tournament. And that’s our main goal this year. That’s what we’ve been talking about,” Neff said. “I think that’s been the drive, especially at 6:30 in the morning when no one wants to get up. We constantly talk about how the way we play, we have to be in shape because there’s no stopping. We never rest.”

“And if they want to win, this is what they need to do,” Haase attached.

So far, the Pats (2-0) have won. Handily. They’ve outscored their first two opponents 13-1, and after clanging seven shots off the goal’s framework in the second half alone Thursday, the differential appears modest compared to what could have been.

“We’re getting close,” Heritage Hills coach Doug Satterfield said before being hollered at by assistant coach Phil Etienne, who gestured a “six” and “zero” with his hands.

Sixty shots on goal. Sure, some were rocketed over the net, others were shanked wide, more were pinged off the posts and crossbar and many Northeast Dubois goalkeeper Melanie Roberts managed to swallow up.

But what resonated with Satterfield was that, from an energy standpoint, his crew hardly broke focus or intensity in the match’s later stages. From Haase’s bullet off the post just 21⁄2 minutes in to Neff’s second tally with about four minutes left, “I don’t think we had a kid that was tired today,” Satterfield said. “We were moving.

“The first half, we scored those two early goals and we took a breath. And we’re not going to do that. We really talked at length at halftime about keeping the intensity, keeping the concentration, the focus, and the second half was 40 minutes of good soccer.”

Despite the lopsidedness, the Jeeps (0-2) acquired plenty of know-how from the result as well, first-year coach Micki Hedinger said. The Patriots presented a formation the Jeeps had never seen before, leaving their defense “scrambling at the beginning,” Hedinger said, before settling down and limiting Heritage Hills to just a pair of first-half goals.

“They just need to stay calm. Even coming into this game, they knew it was going to be a hard game, and you have those jitters of facing a hard team like this who’s strong,” Hedinger said. “But it’s a learning experience. Learn and move forward.”

For it being just the second varsity start for Roberts (17 saves), the Jeep sophomore looked quite the veteran. Seven minutes into the match, she smothered Patriot freshman Kerragan Mulzer’s header that seemed destined for goal. Ten minutes later, Roberts turned aside a one-time strike from Patriot junior Rebeka Mercker from just outside the 18-yard box.

And as Brynn Hoffman, Brittany Partenheimer, Taylin Friedman and Mariah Fischer began settling in as the game progressed, it eventually created Aubrey Marks’ composed finish after a half-field sprint with the ball in transition, bringing the Jeeps to within 5-1 midway through the second half.

“Did you see that? It was freaking awesome!” said Hedinger, who tallied a team-high 16 goals as a senior at Jasper in 2005. “I loved it.”

Haase and Neff each chipped in a pair of goals for the Pats, while Paige Priest kicked off the scoring less than three minutes into the game. Karaline Staggs, who Haase and Neff lauded for her improved ball distribution, ripped a one-timer off a pass from Haase, and Mercker tacked on another one-time blast from just outside the box to initiate the second-half scoring at the 36:51 mark.

Yet the lofty scoring numbers didn’t seem to delight Neff or Haase all that much. Before any mention of the Pats’ production, Neff’s evaluation instead started with the momentary lapse that led to Marks’ goal and carried on to the Pats’ shooting percentage.

“Sixty shots on goal is way too many to only have eight goals,” Neff critiqued.

“And first half, 29 shots and only two goals,” added Haase, whose team rounds out its three-game homestand against Evansville Bosse on Saturday.

“That was our problem last year,” Neff continued. “We always joke around, if the point of the game was to hit the crossbar, we’d be world champions because that’s all we can seem to do.”

Contact Joe Jasinski

More on