Sprinting Cats contract all-in promiseAugust 26, 2014
By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer
JASPER — The contract says you can’t stay up past 11:30 p.m.
You can’t text, tweet or talk to anyone on your phone before a game. Even on the bus ride to road games.
For every piece of equipment you leave out, every team member runs the full field … then half the field … then to the top of the 18-yard box. If a second piece of equipment is left out, repeat. And so on and so forth.
There are other rules you must follow, too. Like, including all your teammates on and off the field and about treating people “with the utmost respect,” as Jasper senior Elizabeth Day put it. Especially when you’re wearing your jersey.
Ready to sign the contract?
Heck yes, (profanity also prohibited) seemed to be the unanimous response from the Jasper girls soccer team, which churned through a quick postgame jaunt after dispatching Big Eight Conference foe Boonville 7-0 on Monday at the Jasper High School Soccer Complex.
Someone left a soccer ball out after the Cats’ win over Princeton on Saturday, so following a brief negotiation with first-year coach Cassey Wagner after wrapping up Monday — run now or run tomorrow? — the girls decided to just get “the killer,” as they call the dash, out of the way.
“We signed the contract,” Day said about the rules Wagner had the girls come up with themselves at the season’s onset. “We all take the blame.”
“We had to read the fine print, of course,” sophomore Anna Charron piped in.
Wagner had installed a similar set of rules as the junior varsity coach the past couple years, but the cell phone ban? The girls’ idea. A player’s mind shouldn’t be anywhere but with the team before a match, they reasoned.
Throughout their postgame killer, striding from one endline to the other, the Wildcats (2-1, 2-0) were still all grinning. Twenty-one girls saw the field during Jasper’s second straight shutout, and seven players scored, which “is amazing,” Day said, “because we’ve got such a young team. I mean, one senior, two or three juniors that are on the field, but everybody stepped up real well.”
That could be the scariest part of all: The Cats started seven of the dozen sophomores on their roster, and with Day as the team’s lone senior, it’s tempting to consider the squad’s potential in the coming years. So they simply don’t.
“It’s hard to think about the future though,” Charron said. “Now, we’re just like, ‘Well, in a couple years we could be good, but why not be good now? Why not make us the best we can be right now?’”
Hence the postgame sprints. Hence the “all-in” mentality Wagner has seen from the girls through the first week of the season. Yet the arrangement was much more symbiotic than a coach simply governing her players.
There was the giddy Wagner who showed up to the team’s 6:30 morning practices over the summer shouting, “Woo, soccer!” as Day re-enacted, laughing at her coach standing nearby.
But the goofiness has substance.
“She makes you want to be there,” Charron said. “You may be ticked off because it’s so early in the morning but she makes it fun and she makes you want to get better.”
So far, the product has looked primed. From sophomore Reagan Otto’s rifle into the lower right corner that kicked off the Cats’ goal barrage midway through the first half to Charron’s delicate through-ball seven minutes later to junior Brittany Haskins, who needed just one touch with her left foot to slot a shot past the Boonville keeper, the Cats attacked with savvy.
Sophomore Annie Stout later lofted a delicate pass over the top of the Pioneer defense that classmate Mallory Ahlbrand corralled and finished, and Jordan Mehringer and Charron each tacked on a goal before halftime, too, furnishing Jasper with a 5-0 cushion at the break.
Even as starters were continually spelled during the second half, they didn’t stray far. Even with the Cats ahead by a handful of goals and all suspense removed, most girls stayed standing right behind Wagner, twirling the neon-colored substitute pinnies they refused to don, eager to get back in the action once given the go-ahead.
It was the same way in last week’s season-opening loss to Evansville Central, Wagner recalled. As soon as she gave Charron a breather from that contest, the sophomore begged to go back in. Even Otto, who had to be carried off the field twice with leg cramps, pleaded to re-enter almost immediately.
“I remember being that player,” said Wagner, who helped lead Jasper to semistate in 2005 as a senior, “just always wanting to be on the field. And I knew that these girls had it in them, but I just hadn’t seen it out of them. So it’s just so great to see them want to play all the time.”
Throughout Monday’s bout, the Cats’ level of play maintain a pretty high pace. Samantha Kabrick — yes, another sophomore — buried a lefty sizzler from just outside the penalty box into the top left corner late in the second half, and after Day punched in the Wildcats’ final tally with 14 minutes to play, Charron tried to replicate Kabrick’s strike a few minutes later, only to ping her left-footed rip off the right post.
They won. They ran. They had fun. All you’ve got to do is sign on the dotted line.
“I’ve been accused by family and friends of being too obsessed with soccer. And that’s probably fair. It’s on my mind all the time,” Wagner said, “because I love this team so much. I love their passion, their energy, and they’re talking about my energy but I feed off of them. I don’t know that they know that. I have so much fun hanging out with them, it makes me even more passionate about the team and the sport.”
Contact Joe Jasinski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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