Rangers join Jeep’s emotional return

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Northeast Dubois senior Ashley Humbert, left, received a hug from her sister and teammate Brittany Partenheimer as she reunited with her team on the soccer field in Bretzville for the first time since falling nearly 14 feet at her family’s Hillham residence Aug. 7. She sustained a punctured lung as well as seven broken or fractured bones, including a skull fracture that led to brain swelling.

Herald Sports Writer

BRETZVILLE — Ashley Humbert had just one goal in mind going into her senior season, and it was exactly that: score a goal. Just once.

Thirty-five days ago, Humbert accidentally fell 14 feet from a broken flight of exterior stairs onto concrete at the building in Hillham where the family resides and Ashley’s mother operates her business, Nails by Joyce. She sustained a punctured lung as well as seven broken or fractured bones, including a skull fracture that led to brain swelling. Yet there she stood Monday night, some four yards from the goal line, realizing her goal as the Northeast Dubois and Forest Park teams watched.

Her steps were slow and calculated as she made the walk from the field entrance at midfield to the southern goal box. She donned her blue Jeep soccer uniform and captain’s armband, along with a black walking boot covering her left foot and a cast on her left wrist and forearm.

Supported by her sister and teammate, Brittany Partenheimer, Humbert booted the ball into the goal as tears began leaking from her eyes. The Jeeps’ only goal in a 5-1 Ranger victory. But a striking testimony to her and her family’s monthlong struggle.

“That was her goal the whole summer,” Jeep coach Katie Layou said. “‘I’m going to score a goal, I’m going to score a goal.’ After she did it. She was bawling, and she loved it. And everyone loved it. And they don’t care about the score of the game. It was about Ashley coming.”

Ashley’s mother, Joyce Daniels, said it was about her daughter returning to the place she belongs.

“She’s home,” Daniels said. “The soccer field is home. Her sister and her waited a long time for this year to get here. … It’s a good homecoming. And (Forest Park), those girls, I’m telling you, that’s why we wanted to come to this game because you don’t get better sportsmanship than that.”

Many Rangers, several of whom helped at a Jeep fundraising carwash in August, broke down as well during the halftime gathering of both teams. As Humbert and Partenheimer stood before the goal, starters from both teams circled around as the shot was taken.

“I got teary-eyed over there, I’ve got to admit. I was crying,” Ranger midfielder Cassie Dilger said. “I’ve never even met her in my life but that was just so awesome, seeing how much they all care about her. Because that’s how our team is, too. So close. And seeing them care so much about her just being able to make that shot really got to me. Because that’s exactly how we’d be.”

After the kick was made, and Humbert slowly exited the field to the standing cheers of both teams’ fans, Ranger coach Amanda Gogel made certain that the goal was counted, giving Humbert her first goal of the season.

After a second half that possessed a truly celebratory vibe for both sides, the host Rangers secured the win, and players from both teams replaced congratulatory high-fives with hugs before departing the pitch.

Likewise for Forest Park, the performance issued plenty with which to be content. The Rangers possessed relentlessly, displayed unparalleled aggressiveness through the air and defensively quashed almost any Jeep offensive aspiration.

And the attacking blitz revealed itself from the match’s onset, as Ranger outside midfielder Amanda Jacob launched a shot just underneath the crossbar less than five minutes into the match, springing a 1-0 advantage.

Nineteen seconds later, the differential doubled, as Dilger played a ball from the right side to Kendall Sherman, who tucked the ball in the lower left corner.

Dilger added a finish of her own with 16 minutes to play in the half, as she collected a pass from the far side of the field, cut back into the middle and laced a near-post finish past a diving Katie Kluesner (nine saves).

Madison Knies and Keisha Jackson each tallied a second-half goal for the Rangers, who haven’t lost since Aug. 28.

Concentration on width in the midfield proved key, Gogel noted, as Jacob (six goals in the last three matches) and Dilger (one goal, two assists in last night’s match) menaced defenders constantly with their speed, footwork and knack for connecting from opposite sides of the field.

“I love playing with her,” Dilger said of her outside counterpart. “We just click, on the field and off the field.”

As for the midfield duo’s personalities?

“Oh, God,” their coach said, shaking her head while smiling.

“Me and (Amanda) are like sisters from another mister,” Dilger said, before alluding to the tandem’s commonalities of which she seems proudest. “Two blondes with (4.0 GPAs). You don’t see that very much.”

Talkative as she is, Dilger chooses to share the spotlight, rattling off names of contributing teammates. For her, Rachel Lueken chipped in a good performance per usual, Abby Tempel and Madi Boeglin yielded little in defense and Lauren May showed some uncanny quickness.

For Gogel, her substitutes, namely Shayna King, Morgan Zehr and Hailei Gehlhausen, have embraced their roles well, and have afforded Gogel the chance to preserve players going into the later part of the season.

Now comes perhaps the biggest two-game stretch of the season for the Rangers, as they joust with defending Pocket Athletic Conference champion Gibson Southern on Thursday before a Saturday clash with Washington.

Yet preceding victory comes the simple opportunity to play, Dilger said. Something the evening reminded her is a joy to be cherished.

“I just realize how lucky I am to be able to come out and play soccer every day,” she said. “And how much it meant to (Humbert). She cried when she made that goal and it really made me feel blessed. And that’s what kind of drove me, too.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.

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