By Steve Hill

April 23, 2019

Weston — The game didn’t look like it was ever in doubt, but it sure made a defense of SPASH’s Wisconsin Valley Conference soccer championship from last season look much more doubtful.

Except for a two-minute span when the Panthers scored a pair of quick goals to pull to within 3-2 in the second half, the No. 7-ranked D.C. Everest Evergreens controlled the game from start to finish, bringing their season record to 5-0-1 (2-0, 6 points and second place in the WVC).

Everest coach Lucas Kollross said afterwards, “What worked for us?  A high energy level. I think we beat their defense to a lot of balls, especially in the second half, and our presence inside the 18 to finish off some really nice balls tonight was very good.”

On the other side, SPASH head coach Allie Rogesheske acknowledged that her team was simply outplayed.

“I’m disappointed that we couldn’t give them a better game and that we didn’t come out stronger,” said Rogesheske, whose team falls to 5-3 overall and 2-2 in the WVC. “We had some key people who just had an off game today, and that’s too bad when it does.

“But there’s always round two, and that will give us some good things to work on in practice.”

With road losses to its biggest rivals in Everest and Wisconsin Rapids, to whom the Panthers lost 1-0 last week, SPASH will have to find its way quickly in order to get back in the thick of the conference race.

Maddie Simpson gave the Evergreens an early lead when she skittered in a difficult free kick from a tough angle on the right, getting it just past a diving effort by SPASH goalie Bergen Beversdorf.

Although it stayed at 1-0 for the rest of the first half, it was fairly apparent that Simpson and her teammates had the game well in hand, winning ball after ball and generally keeping SPASH from developing major threats.

Everest made it 2-0 in the 51st minute on a nice cross from junior forward Elle Hersperger on the right side to junior forward Sarah Lorge at the far post, where Lorge tapped it in from close range.

In the 59th, junior forward Lily Kowal took a pass from Alanna Schneck and bolted down the left side, taking what looked like a manageable shot toward Beversdorf, who then appeared to take a hit from one of her own defenders as the ball got by her to make it 3-0.

SPASH senior defender Julia Moder said of the game, “We definitely had a hard time sticking together in the back.  We were getting frustrated and getting out of shape, and things definitely weren’t falling our way tonight.”

Rogeshke called Everest’s off-the-ball movement “outstanding” and added, “They found our pockets of space and were crashing the net, and that’s what it takes.”

The game looked well in hand at that point, but SPASH got on the board in the 65th when a long shot from the left drew Everest’s sophomore goalie Sonja Budleski well out of the box on the far side of the goal. When the ball bounded back toward the goal, junior defender Kelsie Kostuchowski lifted a short potshot back against the grain and into the net to make it 3-1.

Just two minutes later, freshman midfielder Zoe Sell broke loose on a counterattack on the right and crossed a pass over to Abby Gemza in the middle. Gemza sent it further to senior teammate Lauren Johnson, who boomed in a shot from outside the 18-yard box on the left, suddenly making it 3-2.

But SPASH’s hope didn’t last long.  In the 69th, Everest senior Meghan Heil found herself with a loose ball at near range and scored off her body to make it 4-2. Keta Oettinger was credited with an assist.

Kollross said, “I was really proud, after giving up those two goals, that we showed our resiliency and that we can fight back. That could easily have spiraled out of control in a hurry.”

Everest continued winning too many battles for the ball to allow SPASH to claw back in it, and Evergreens senior Olivia Fernstaedt ended all Panther hopes in the 87th minute off an assist by sophomore Lydia Ellis to make it 5-2.

Heil said this game was a welcome change from last year, when Everest played SPASH three times — all at home because of weather-related scheduling issues — and could manage only a tie in the first of those matches.

“I feel like we really have chemistry. We work really well with each other,” she said.