Aged kickers hang with Point
Valley co-champion and sectional #3 seed SPASH pulled off a 6-0 victory over Merrill in last Thursday’s regional opener, but the #14 Bluejays made it more difficult than the Panthers expected.
Point had knocked off the Jays 10-0 on Apr. 16 and 7-0 on May 9 in their Valley meetings.
“All in all, it wasn’t exactly the way we wanted to end the season, but it was still an improvement on the previous two times we played them and the younger girls really looked hungry for the future,” MHS coach Steph Nelson said. “SPASH is a strong team with quite a few ‘big guns’ who were trying to shove the ball down our throats the entire first half. They scored two minutes into the game; we didn’t start very well, just looked like we were defeated from the start, but then the girls picked it up a lot and SPASH didn’t score again until the 18-minute mark where we had about a five minute let-down where they went up 4-0.”
At that point, Nelson switched it up.
“A little before half I put all the seniors in; with the weather rolling in we had a contingency plan that if it got bad we’d end at halftime,” she said. “That was a huge game changer for us. The seniors played with such fire and tenacity that it really started to frustrate SPASH. After halftime the same girls went out and finished their careers on the field. SPASH didn’t score again until 34 and 38 minutes into the half even though the coach left his best players in to try to end it early by mercy ruling us.
“I was extremely proud of how the girls played in that half. They played with the attitude that no matter what SPASH was going to do, we were going to shut them down. I had two freshmen, Cassy Plachetka and Morganne Noland, who also stepped up huge and played in the place of the injured Madeline Klippel and Taylor Hudzinski. It was really fun to watch them go up against these older starters from a strong program and shut them down. Morganne ended up with 11 saves on the day and showed a very promising future with her goalkeeping.”
Merrill managed two shots on goal and three overall, while the Panthers had 16 on goal, and 25 overall.
MHS wrapped up an 1-14 season and was 0-12 in the WVC. SPASH defeated Marshfield 3-1 to advance to Thursday’s sectional at #2 seed Eau Claire Memorial.
“The season as a whole didn’t go how anyone expected,” Nelson said. “I never expected to get mercy ruled four times, I never expected to not be able to play hardly any non-conference games because we were still getting massive amounts of snow up through almost May.
“What I was expecting was to see a lot of improvement; it didn’t happen as soon as I would have liked, but by the end we were doing the things that Will (Bialecki) and I were teaching them and kept the games a lot closer than previously. I expected to get our first conference goal in two years, and thanks to Sydney Harris a week and a half ago, we finally got it. I expected to have a lot more wins, but then again I was expecting a lot more non-conference games on our schedule, so I’m happy with the one that we got. I was hoping to get our first conference win in two years, and we got dang close (lost 2-1 against East and 2-0 against West) but I guess that’s one that we’ll have to wait until next year to get. I had a lot of fun coaching these girls this year. They were so eager to learn, always had questions about how to do things correctly, they had excellent work ethic and attitudes, and they knew how and when to have fun and how and when to be serious.”