Quote me on that: Cats refocus, regain grooveOctober 4, 2013
By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer
JASPER — With his team stumbling through the latter part of its season, Anthony Price decided to mix things up a bit at Monday’s practice.
The agenda was rigorous, both physically and mentally, but it’s what he felt the girls needed after dropping three of their last four contests.
In addition to strenuous conditioning, the Jasper girls soccer coach obliged each girl to commit to memory five quotes he’d collected. All motivational, all pertinent to the team’s season, he thought.
“Do not measure yourself by what you’ve accomplished,” Price said, reciting a quote by the late John Wooden. “Instead, measure yourself based on what you should have accomplished with your ability.”
The way Price saw it, his team had started the season so strong, but had faltered slightly in recent weeks. Sure, the early-season success was nice. But given the team’s potential, Price said, there was more to be had.
The players heard the message.
Two games, two one-goal victories. The second came Thursday night against county rival Forest Park. Reagan Otto’s finish in transition some 23 minutes into the match sufficed for the Wildcats, who pocketed a 1-0 victory over the Rangers at the Jasper High School Soccer Complex to wrap up their regular season in focused stride.
“There are great things we accomplished early on in the season. But now it’s ”˜What should we do based on what we have talentwise?’ And we have a talented team,” Price said.
“So looking at our abilities and what we should be able to do, what do we bring to the table each and every game? And I think that embodies what we’d like to take to sectional.”
Price made the girls recite the quotes before their Tuesday match against Evansville Reitz, which Jasper hadn’t beaten since it started playing the Panthers in 2006. Behind a laser from Emily Jones, the Wildcats celebrated a 1-0 win. Before Thursday’s kickoff, Price had the Cats call back a few of the quotes once again.
“I think they kind of unified us during that practice,” Jasper senior Annie Stenftenagel said. “We came out of that (Monday) practice really sore. It was really taxing. But we came through it together, as a team.”
In Price’s eyes, it took the same collective muscle Thursday to blank a Ranger group that generated chances throughout the match. For the Cats (10-6-1), it started with defense.
The Wildcat coached lauded the labor of Stenftenagel, her classmate Erin Moser and freshman Kayla Thimling, who stayed cognizant of Ranger standout Madisyn Hunt and made the necessary adjustments, particularly in the second half as the freshman continued pushing forward.
“(Hunt) is a dangerous little player. And I give credit to my team because as the game went on, they started to respect her better and started to really pay attention to her strengths,” Price said. “The back line did a nice job of sealing it up there toward the end. Though the end was a little bit scary.”
Just a bit. With 13 seconds left, the Rangers had a free kick from just outside the 18-yard box. However, the shot cruised over the goal.
Yet as difficult as a loss to Jasper was to swallow for Forest Park coach Amanda Sicard, the Rangers’ development — as evidenced in their second-half showing, she said — will certainly help going into Tuesday’s sectional tussle with Heritage Hills.
After a blitzing 20 minutes to start the match, the Rangers (5-9-1) seemed to subside, Sicard remarked. Though after halftime, the verve was re-amplified.
“They went to the ball, they wanted the ball,” Sicard said. “I told them, ”˜Be selfish. Want the ball yourself.’ … I’m happy with how we came out (in the second half).”
While the coach felt the effort from Hunt, Hailei Gehlhausen, Abby Tempel and Cassie Dilger finally heightened in Forest Park’s latter-half attack, the job done by Lauren May, Autumn Recker, Emma Mehling and the rest of the Ranger defense never relented, Sicard said.
“My defense is very strong,” she said. “I can’t complain about what they did or did not do today because they saved a lot of opportunities that Jasper had.”
Jasper’s Anna Charron tattooed a 20-yard strike off the crossbar with 25 minutes to play. Ten minutes prior, Anna Stout sliced a pair of defenders before dishing to Elizabeth Verkamp in front of the net, where Ranger goalkeeper Tabitha Steckler made an improbable save with a quick reaction to her right, punching the ball over the crossbar to preserve the 1-0 score.
At the other end, however, little was getting past Jasper’s defense.
When Hunt surged into the box with less than nine minutes to play, Thimling alertly stepped inside and shielded the ball until Hunt committed an overanxious foul. Half a minute later, Stenftenagel executed a risky slide tackle inside the 18-yard box. The ball trickled out of bounds and the Cats turned away two Ranger corner kicks.
The back line’s play hasn’t come as a shock, Price said. The communication he’s heard from a freshman? That’s another story.
“Kayla started the year off as a mime, and she’s back there commanding people around, telling people to get back, calling out senior midfielders to cover space,” Price said. “I’m really happy with her development as a center back.”
The Wildcats now take respite until their first-round sectional skirmish with Boonville on Tuesday. But given the one-week turnaround, Stenftenagel said she’s excited for what’s still to be accomplished.
“Fantastic,” she said in describing the week’s victories. “It started out with an amazing season and when we hit that slump, our spirits kind of went down. And now the intensity is back up.”
Contact Joe Jasinski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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