Pats quell Cats with prompt responsesSeptember 18, 2013
By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer
JASPER — In one sequence, Greer Neff’s actions encapsulated a match.
The Heritage Hills junior absorbed a tackle from sturdy Jasper midfielder Laura Renner, sending Renner onward in pursuit of the rolling ball and Neff to the turf.
She rose and began limping. In a plea with her leg, she gingerly ran in place in hopes of resuscitating the bum ankle as the clock showed eight minutes remaining. The Patriots clung to a one-goal lead.
And as the Wildcats continued their late-game surge, Neff continued to battle, fully revealing the limp only during brief pauses in the action.
They didn’t come often. But when the Wildcats’ final shot attempt with nine seconds remaining sailed over the goal, the Patriots could finally exhale and relish in the preservation of a 3-2 victory on Tuesday at the Jasper High School Soccer Complex.
“I knew at any point they could come back. They were getting several free kicks in our half. And any moment they could slip a ball through,” Neff rationalized for staying in despite the hobble. “I was just hoping and praying, ”˜Just hit the ball out, hit the ball out.’”
“That was one of the most intense games I’ve ever played in. Second to the sectional game at Forest Park (last season). I can’t even describe it right now. It feels so good.”
After a combined five first-half goals from both teams and a hunker-down defensive display by the visitors in the final 40 minutes, Class 1A No. 12 Heritage Hills (8-1-1) exhibited postgame revelry more apt for October survival. And while it may simply translate as the Patriots’ eighth victory on the season — and first against the Wildcats since 2010 — its ingredients could serve as much more.
After Breigh Haase coolly tucked a shot inside the far post just six minutes into the contest, the rivals exchanged jabs the remainder of the opening half. Some 10 minutes later, Jasper’s Brittany Haskins was taken down in the penalty box. Teammate Emily Jones then buried the penalty kick to knot the match at 1. Less than a minute later, Patriot midfielder Dria Oxley sailed a free kick from just beyond the midfield line that bounced once outside the Wildcat 18-yard box before Neff laced a one-time finish to regain the lead. And after Haskins buried a shot with less than five minutes to play in the opening period, Heritage Hills responded again with an Oxley set piece from 25 yards away.
Twice, the Wildcats evened the score. And twice, both times less than a minute later, the Patriots mustered a response to retake the lead.
“That’s grit,” Patriot coach Doug Satterfield said. “That’s not putting your head down. That’s saying, ”˜OK, now we’ve got to respond.’”
Added Neff: “Some team scores a goal on us, we don’t think about it. We know our priorities, we know our strengths, we just get back and play.”
Certainly easier said than done, especially against a Jasper side as persistent as Renner and Co. were during Tuesday’s senior night.
From Annie Stenftenagel’s aggressiveness at her new center back position to the constant churning of Annie Stout as the Cats’ lone striker, the push for an equalizer never subsided. And in that, Wildcat coach Anthony Price found solace.
“Our girls came and matched the intensity level the second half,” Price said. “We had all kind of great chances and just couldn’t put any away. That’s the nature of the game.”
In the final two minutes, the Wildcats (7-4-1) mounted their final charge. Jones lofted a free kick that Patriot goalkeeper Maddie Crews tipped over the crossbar. Then came a pair of corner kicks, one headed away by Patriot defender Rebeka Mercker, the other cleared by Carolyn Burroughs.
As Satterfield observed, a key component in Heritage Hills’ second-half shutout effort was the defense of Paige Priest. The sophomore has become the Patriots’ lock-down defender in several matches, including their 4-0 victory against Forest Park in which Priest man-marked Ranger standout Madisyn Hunt in the second half.
During Tuesday’s second half, Satterfield assigned Priest to specifically guard Jones, who “was burning us back there,” Satterfield said.
Once the adjustment was made, the Patriot coach saw a stark contrast in the Wildcats’ ability to create in the attacking third of the field.
“It really changed the game,” Satterfield said. “They were threatening and threatening and threatening, and Paige, she’s just tough. She kind of put the pressure on their offense.”
Finding someone not feeling pressure could have been a challenge. As expected, the game remained physical from start to finish. Renner continued to be a force in the center, as did her adversary Oxley, whose strong challenge on Stout left the freshman down for several minutes before being carried off the field by Wildcat assistant coach Janessa Wolf.
“It got intense out there,” Satterfield said tersely.
Hence the celebration.
Neff emphasized that the win was her first against Jasper during her high school career. To boot, the finishing power illustrated a keynote Satterfield had been drilling into his players’ heads.
“Our coach told us, every game from here on out the rest of the season has to be ours. It has to be ours because we can beat every team,” Neff said.
“We knew this was a challenge. And we were up for it.”
Contact Joe Jasinski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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