SPASH girls soccer looks to finish strong in second half of WVC season
After a 9-1 start to this season, the Stevens Point Area
Senior High School (SPASH) girls soccer team had a chance to move into a
first-place tie atop the Wisconsin Valley Conference (WVC), when it hosted
defending WIAA Division 1 State Champion D.C. Everest at Scaffidi Field at the
Portage County Youth Soccer Complex Tuesday, May 3.
The Panthers struck with a pair of early goals in the first
half to take a 2-0 lead, but third-ranked Everest battled back to take a 3-2
lead into halftime and went on to a 5-2 win.
SPASH (9-2, 4-2) is set to host Wausau East at Scaffidi
Field at Thursday,
May 5, as it heads into the second half of the conference schedule.
“Up until this game, we were 42 goals for and three against,
so we were playing good ball,” said SPASH girls soccer head coach Don Peel.
“But this is probably the best-caliber team that we’ve played.
“We have a good team, but we’re young,” he said.
The Panthers lost four-time First Team All-WVC forward and
the conference’s leading scorer last season in Abby Bohanski and Second Team
All-WVC midfielders Autum Shurbert-Hetzel and Jamie Clemens from last season’s
team that finished second in the WVC behind Everest and lost in the Regional
Finals to finish 15-5 overall.
SPASH is led on offense this season by three-time First Team
All-WVC senior forward Justice Menge, who will play soccer at NCAA Division II
Winona State University (Minn.)
in the fall, junior midfielder Anna Zajakowski and freshman midfielder/forward
“Justice is really the best ballplayer in the group (of
seniors),” said Peel. “Anna probably has the best all-around skills on the
team; normally she traps and passes very well.
“And Abby’s actually the team’s leading scorer as a
freshman,” he said.
On defense, SPASH is led by the return of Honorable Mention
All-WVC junior defender Erin Soucek, Honorable Mention All-WVC sophomore
defender Courtney Milkowski and senior defender Rachel Muenchow.
“Courtney is my sweeper and Erin
is my stopper, and they work very well together,” said Peel. “Rachel is the
left fullback, she rolled her ankle last year and really didn’t play that much,
and now she has a thigh strain, so she’s been a little bit hobbled.
“And then there’s others sprinkled in and out,” he said.
Sophomore forward Kaylin Kostuchowski, sophomore
forward/midfielder Olivia Clemens and sophomore defender Brooklyn Seefeldt also
return after seeing playing time last year, while freshman midfielder/forward
Sierra Hefferan and freshman Julia Moder have joined the lineup this season.
Senior Shayna Molski returns at goalie after she split time
there last season, and is sharing time at the position this season with junior
ToniRae Evans, who also plays midfielder.
Also in the mix for the Panthers this season are freshman
forward Brynn Beversdorf, sophomore forward Kaylee Newland, junior forward Tesa
Peel, senior defender Erin Ferrone, junior defender Keelia Rogers, sophomore
midfielder/forward Lauren Huspeni and freshman defender Madisyn Rogan.
“We have a lot of freshmen, and we have a lot of
sophomores,” said coach Peel. “We’re looking for the future, but we should be
SPASH opened its season with seven wins in a row, including
a 3-0 record to win the Urbana (Ill.) Invitational April 8 and 9, and then
followed with a 1-0 loss at home against Wisconsin Rapids Tuesday, April 26.
“We had 11 shots, they had four, it could’ve went either
way,” said coach Peel. “They put one in, we didn’t.
“If there’s anything that hurts us, it’s our offense,
capitalizing when we get our chances in tight games,” he said.
The Panthers went on the road and beat
Merrill 5-0 Thursday, April 28, and Chippewa Falls 2-0 Saturday, April 30, to
improve to 9-1 heading into their showdown at home against Everest Tuesday
night, where a win would move SPASH into a three-way tie atop the WVC standings
with Everest and Rapids.
The Panthers struck early Tuesday night, as Menge scored into the game on a free kick to
give the team a 1-0 lead.
Just over five minutes later, Gemza scored on a header off
an assist from Menge at the
mark, as SPASH built a 2-0 lead.
“Free kicks can go anywhere,” said coach Peel. “Juicy took a
very nice one and put it in, and the second one was a header, and it went in.
“So that was nice, and it was early,” he said. “It’s just a
shame that we couldn’t hang on and keep that lead.”
Everest answered with a goal at the mark to pull within 2-1, and then scored
again at to tie the
game at 2-2.
As a slight rain fell during the early part of the game, it
began to downpour later in the first half, while Everest scored on a free kick
at 39:15 to take a 3-2 lead, which it carried into halftime.
“I told my players more than once, and more than tonight,
that ‘they don’t quit,’” said coach Peel. “We went up two goals, and there’d be
other teams that would just fold.
“Not them,” he said. “They don’t quit. They come right back
at you and they play till the end, and if you look at their record, they’ve
come from behind in more than one game, and late in the game, and either tied
it up or won.”
SPASH was within 3-2 for the first 14 minutes of the second
half, before Everest scored at the 59:04 mark to take a 4-2 lead, and then
added a goal with 4:12 left to close out a 5-2 win.
“They’re a good team; they’re a better team than we are,”
said coach Peel. “They won state last year, and they haven’t dropped that much.
“They play a lot of big games; we don’t,” he said. “We don’t
have the depth for it, and we don’t have the experience for it. And in a game like
this, it shows.”
The loss left the Panthers in third place in the WVC behind
Everest (6-0) and Rapids (5-1) at the midpoint of the conference schedule, as
they will travel to play at Rapids May 19 and close the regular season at
Everest May 26, before the WIAA Division 1 playoffs begin June 2.
“(Everest has) an all-year-round program, and they have the
facilities for that program,” said coach Peel, whose team has been practicing
at the Madison
elementary school fields. “We don’t have the facilities yet, maybe someday the
school or the city will have it.
“This is our second game out here (at the Portage County
Youth Soccer Complex) and we’re in May already, so we’ve had two practices out
here, that’s it,” he said. “We started the 21st of March, and we’re into May,
and we’ve practiced out here at the complex twice. Something’s wrong.
“The conditions at Madison
fields are not conducive to playing,” he said. “So until that changes, yeah, we
will be competitive with the teams at our level, we will be competitive with
the teams that are below us. But when we get into the tight games, until we get
a little more experience, it’s going to be a long night for us.”