Physicality carries Patriots past WildcatsSeptember 12, 2018
By JONATHAN SAXON
LINCOLN CITY — Heritage Hills coach Andy Fischer has been telling his girls since the start of the season that there would be games where they would have to match their opponent’s physicality and be able to stand their ground on the soccer field.
They got a taste of it in their win against Forest Park on Aug. 28, but they got another dose when neighboring Dubois County rival Jasper came to play on Tuesday night.
“We tell them all year long there’s going to be games that are just physical,” said Fischer. “They go hard in practice, and it pays off when you have games like this where neither team is going to back down. And that’s just how it was
But junior Nathalie Andersson said the Patriots, as they worked their way to a hard fought 4-2 win over the Wildcats, had in their minds they weren’t going to be bullied — especially not on their home grass.
“Coach always tries to motivate us before the game,” said Andersson, who found the net twice for Heritage Hills. “We were the underdogs and we always try to think that they’re coming to our backyard and their not going to get the chance to defeat us.”
The bodies started flying early and often between Heritage Hills (9-0-1) and Jasper (5-6) as the girls battled each other for every inch of ground and every second of possession. Early on no one team could establish clear control of the game. As soon as one team would start to make a charge for their opponent’s net, an antagonizing jersey would either fly in and steal the ball away, or perhaps a player would create a shot for herself, only to overshoot her desired target.
However, there was an early breakthrough. Pats junior Kiersten Schuler was making her way through the box when suddenly she was tackled and drew a penalty on Jasper. She wound up hitting the subsequent penalty kick in order to put the first points on the board and give Heritage Hills the 1-0 lead at the 33:25 mark.
Then the stalemate on the field resumed. It went back in forth for most of the play on the field. If one team seemed to have the advantage after the first score, it would seem to be Jasper. Repeatedly the Wildcats would find ways to push through the Pats defense, and find themselves with short opportunities to score.
But the shots could not find their mark, and it wasn’t always due to shooter error. Senior goalie Lauren Caswell stepped up big and challenged almost every attempt at her net. If she didn’t make the stop on the ball directly, then it was likely her presence that altered the shots off their course.
All the while the rest of Heritage Hills kept fighting for their own shots. It was a true battle of attrition to make is past Jasper’s defensive line, but with 13:32 remaining in the first half a group of Pats jerseys made their way up the field and used their solid passing to set up a shot for Andersson, who delivered the kick necessary to put Heritage Hills up 2-0.
The scoring in the first half would stop after that, but Jasper got one more chance when junior Annie Donato lined up for a penalty kick after drawing a tackle in the box penalty. She missed her shot, which summed up the extent of Jasper’s offense in the game.
The struggles and physical play on the field continued into the second half. It seemed like every time one looked up they could count on seeing a player from Jasper or Heritage Hills picking themselves up off the ground. Fans in the stands argued for penalty calls on both sides, but the refs showed a lot of restraint in letting the girls play and sort out the game amongst themselves.
Heritage Hills eventually found Jasper’s goal two more times, getting scores from Schuler and Andersson once again to go up 4-0 with less than 20 minutes to play in the game.
To their credit, Jasper never gave up trying to score and come back into the game, but it seemed like whenever Wildcats sophomore Kara Krueger found herself out in front of the pack, she didn’t have any teammates around her to help stave off the defensive closers for the Pats. She did manage to break through twice, but by the time she notched her goals it was a case of too little, too late.
Both Andersson and Schuler finished the game with two goals for Heritage Hills. Krueger also finished with a pair of scores. With the win, the Patriots broke a three-year losing streak against the Wildcats.
“I think we had a flat out awesome game, I’m so proud of my girls,” said Andersson.
Donato liked the way his girls responded to the Patriots energy and intentions throughout the game. The Wildcats were able to make their presence felt and create some shots, but they couldn’t reap the benefits of any shots making their mark.
“We had plenty of goal scoring opportunities,” he said. “We had some good shots. The biggest thing is not to let the other team’s playing style effect ours. They played fast forward and frantic, and we started playing like that. That’s not how we play.”
In addition to not letting other teams dictate the pace and play of the game against them, the team also hopes to use the missed opportunities as a lesson on how to capitalize in the future.
“As soon as we start making more of those connection passes, we started having better opportunities,” said Krueger. “As soon as we started making those low crosses across the goal we had some finishes because our backside was coming in. I hope we continue to do that.”
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