By Steve Hill
April 22, 2019
Wisconsin Rapids picked up its third league win in as many games Monday, leading off a busy week in which the Wisconsin Valley Conference’s largest schools are all scheduled to travel through Weston to try their luck at perennial conference power D.C. Everest.
While Rapids and Everest have tough weeks ahead, the SPASH Panthers top them both, with four road games scheduled, including three against teams ranked in the state’s top eight in Division 1.
Rapids 2, Marshfield 1
Rapids (5-2-1, 3-0 WVC) fell behind the Marshfield Tigers on the road Monday after Marshfield’s super junior, midfielder Nina Hashimoto, scored on a penalty kick in the 27th minute. But the first-place Red Raiders got two second-half goals to stay on top of the league table with 9 points.
Freshman midfielder Chelsea King got an assist from junior forward Karis Crowley in the 51st to tie the score, and junior midfielder Hannah Jarosch added the second off an assist from freshman forward Ashley Abbot for the final margin.
Hannah Felker had four saves for Wisconsin Rapids while Marshfield’s Clara Allan had 5.
“It was a coal miner’s game tonight. Blue collar,” said Rapids coach Nate Cleveland. “The field tonight was the consistency of wet pottery clay.
“But we got a pair of pretty goals when we needed them.”
The Raiders may need at least a pretty goal or two Thursday when they travel to Weston to take on D.C. Everest, which at 4-0-1 is ranked No. 7 in Division 1, Wisconsin’s large-school category. But before that, Rapids will have to keep its guard up against Merrill at 7 p.m. Tuesday — the second of three road games in four days.
And on the other side of the road …
The Evergreens, meanwhile, also have three games in four days, the result of earlier weather-related postponements. While each of their games will be on their home field, it will still be a formidable challenge, as Everest plays last year’s champion SPASH Tuesday, current WVC leader Rapids Thursday, and cross-town rival Wausau West on Friday, with all games set for 7 p.m.
“We have a pretty experienced group and we know to take it one game at a time,” Everest head coach Lucas Kollross said Monday. “When you have three games in four days, you can’t get ahead of yourself.
“After last year, losing out on the conference championship, we want to make every game count.”
Everest lost two games to eventual champion SPASH and tied a third — all at home — in 2017, and Kollross said he expects a “chess match” from the Panthers, whose head coach, Allie Rogesheske, likes to move players around.
“They played us a couple of different ways last year,” Kollross said. “The last time Abby Gemza was on the back line and Maddie Rogan in goal, but at the same time they could put Lauren Johnson and Gemza up top if they decide to go that way.”
Gemza and Johnson, both normally midfielders, and Rogan, a defender, are all returning first-team All-WVC players, as is defender Julia Moder. They’re members of a strong senior class that is expected to make a run at a second straight title, but the Panthers ran into a stout Red Raiders defense and got shut out 1-0 in Rapids on Tuesday last week.
Kollross was able to watch that rivalry game last week, and he’s hoping the Evergreens are able to jump out to a quicker start against Rapids than SPASH was able to do.
“Rapids has a great freshman class, no question about it,” he said. “There’s lots of team speed they haven’t had in the past, and they shift well together and play as a unit.”
Kollross said his team is healthy and up to the task, although he’s not as thrilled with three home games as one might expect.
“I’d rather it be more spread out,” he said, “because I’m sure we’re going to have a few tough stretches later.”
You want tough? We’ll give you tough.
The Panthers will almost certainly be looking at their most difficult stretch between now and Saturday. After Tuesday’s matchup with Everest, they’ll travel to Wausau for a 5 p.m. Thursday contest against the East Lumberjacks and their stellar sophomore Abby Thompson, who got three goals and an assist in East’s 4-1 win over Merrill April 9.
SPASH will then travel to a De Pere tournament where it will take on defending state champ Bay Port and 2018 sectional semifinalist Kimberly. Kimberly got knocked out of the playoffs by Sheboygan North — the team Bay Port ultimately beat 3-1 in the state championship game.
Bay Port, at 4-1, is ranked one slot below Everest at No. 8, while undefeated Kimberly (5-0) is ranked third in Division 1. SPASH plays Bay Port Friday at 7 p.m. and Kimberly 9:30 a.m. Saturday.
“This week will give us a snapshot of where we stand,” SPASH coach Allie Rogesheske said in what may have been the state’s top-ranked understatement.
But first, of course, is the Panthers’ game against the Evergreens, a constant presence in the state’s polls in recent years and a team itching to take back the conference title from the Panthers.
After its disappointing loss to Wisconsin Rapids, SPASH had a couple of good practice sessions last week and another solid one Monday, despite the threat of rain.
“We’re starting to play within our system. Sometimes it takes a few adjustments,” Rogesheske said Monday night. “The team is ready for tomorrow, and we’re excited.”
While the team has some bumps and bruises, it’s fairly healthy, and the best news may be that Rogan, who limped off the field temporarily after being pushed from behind by a Rapids defender, resulting in a yellow card, is in good shape to play.
Rogesheske said that her squad will likely have to pull a few players up from the junior varsity this weekend to supplement her relatively small varsity roster when it plays its state-ranked foes after two tough conference games.
“I think our greatest feat might be to still be standing at the end of the week,” she joked.
Other WVC notes
The Panthers (5-2, 2-1 WVC) rebounded from Tuesday’s loss to take an easy 6-0 victory at Merrill (1-4-1, 0-3) Thursday behind two goals from Gemza and single goals from Johnson, Grace Smith, Brynn Beversdorf and Kelsie Kostuchowski. SPASH ended up with a 24-1 shots-on-goal advantage. Bergen Beversdorf got a save on that one Blue Jays shot, while Merrill goalies Kaylee Bowe and Kimberly Kracht finished with 13 and 2 saves, respectively … Marshfield (3-4, 1-2) got a convincing non-conference win against potential regional playoff foe Hortonville (1-4) on the road Friday, winning 5-0 on three goals and one assist from Hashimoto. Senior midfielder Nicole Simon led off the scoring in the game’s first minute and sophomore forward Kate Schilling added a goal as well.