They’re money: Wildcat surge stuns TitansOctober 6, 2017
By COLIN LIKAS
JASPER — Leah Schnell earned $10 on Thursday night. The Jasper girls soccer team secured a thrilling Class 2A sectional semifinal victory as well.
How are these two events connected? Well, Schnell booted a free kick past Gibson Southern’s Sophie Toth with three minutes to play in an eventual 2-1 Wildcat triumph, completing a bet with teammate Emily Kuhlman for the aforementioned money — and sending a large student section spilling onto the pitch once time expired.
“It was supposed to be Ashley (Haskins), and Ashley was like, ‘Leah, you take it,’” Schnell recalled. “And then Emily came running up and was like, ‘Leah, 10 bucks if this goes in.’ And I thought, ‘I want 10 bucks.’”
In the end, Schnell’s successful kick not only boosted her bank account, but also pushed Jasper (12-5-1) to a thrilling comeback win over the Class 2A No. 5 Titans (14-2-2), whose last victory came by a 4-1 margin over the Wildcats on Sept. 23.
Jasper coach Michael Donato previously said he felt his team was the better one in that defeat. He felt the same way after Thursday’s win.
“I think we came in, we had more of an intensity there and we completed more passes than we did last game,” he said. “Just the feeling that it must’ve been for the girls out on the field when Leah put that goal in. I almost started crying I was so happy for them.”
Jasper’s unbridled joy couldn’t have been imagined just moments earlier, as Gibson Southern carried a 1-0 lead past the 72-minute mark thanks to Mylee Wilson finishing an Abigail Goings corner kick late in the first half.
But Haskins received a corner opportunity of her own with just under eight minutes to play. Her bid found the hip of Hallie Bawel and careened into the net to create a 1-all tie and send the Wildcat supporters into a frenzy.
Bawel said she wasn’t exactly in position on the play — a point her coach disagreed with — but that she remembered Donato talking about not hesitating while running to the ball. That piece of advice paid off in a season-changing moment for the Wildcats.
“I was kind of in shock,” Bawel said of her reaction when the ball crossed the goal line. “I didn’t really know if it was going in or not. I think that’s what really put our team up, like, ‘We can do this, we can come back.’
Bawel had two goals all season entering Thursday, with the last coming Aug. 21 against Boonville. The senior’s third tally had Donato singing her praises afterward.
“Hallie this year, she’s improved so much from last year and become such a significant part of the play,” he said. “But she’s kind of a silent player out there. I’m thrilled for her. That started it right there.”
With Jasper’s crowd red-hot following the tying strike — including a student section Bawel called the biggest she has seen in her prep career — tensions continued to climb as the clock ticked toward the three-minute mark. But before it could hit that point, Schnell made her impact.
The junior said she wasn’t entirely sure why her teammates insisted she take the shot, with Donato and his staff tabbing Kuhlman for the duty. The players had final say, however, and with her fellow Wildcats’ support, Schnell was pumped up for the opportunity.
“I was like, “Guys, I want to take it. I feel like this is going to go in,’” Schnell said. “And then it went in. Thank the lord.”
Donato had one answer for why his team turned to Schnell, who hadn’t scored in 17 games this season, at the most critical of junctures.
“Because she’s confident, and that’s it,” he said. “They knew she had the confidence. That’s one thing we do tell them: It’s their game out on the field. It’s their decisions for everything. We try not to coach too much from the sides, and they made the right decision.”
Jasper’s next task will be coming off an emotional high to face Big Eight Conference foe Washington (4-9-2) for the Wildcats’ first sectional crown since 2007. The Hatchets have doubled their win total during this postseason with victories over Princeton and Vincennes Lincoln, but Jasper has its own fairy tale ending in mind.
“It’s going to be a big one, especially with us being seniors,” Bawel said. “We want some net really bad this year.”
Donato said he won’t have to do much to prepare his team for Washington, which Jasper defeated 5-0 on Sept. 20 thanks to a goal apiece from five different athletes. The motivation manifests not only in the moment, but also in the opponent.
“Any time we play Washington, they’re ready,” Donato said. “And any time Washington plays us, they’re ready. They’re coming into this game knowing they can win, and we’re coming into the game knowing that we can win. It’ll be a great game, which is what you want in a sectional final.”
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