The Jackson girls soccer team managed to win its second-straight Class 4 District 1 Championship by defeating No. 1 seed Northwest 1-0 one week ago today.
The Indians were seeded second in the district tournament as they fell to the Lions 1-0 during the regular season on the road April 26.
“We talked after our loss against them that we were hoping to [play] them again tonight and that it was going to feel a lot better than it did [April 26] by celebrating a district championship,” Jackson head coach Justin McMullen said. “I’m so proud of the way they played after the weather delay. You just never know what’s going to happen after that, but we came out and were very resilient tonight.
“Just looking at them right now and seeing the smiles on their faces makes everything that we do in training all worth it.”
Coming up with the lone goal in the game was junior Natalie Miller, who was actually playing as a defender instead of her usual forward position.
“We just kind of do whatever we feel is necessary for that certain team and what specific people they have, so sometimes I just move back there depending on who they have,” Miller said.
Miller was able to find the back of the net in the 37th minute unguarded as fellow junior Mikala “Mik” Liley kicked the ball from midfield away from Northwest defenders to leave Miller one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
“I looked up and there was no one in front of me except the goalie,” Miller said. “Whenever we played them in the regular season I missed a lot of those [shots]. We really worked on those kinds of situations in practice, so I really felt prepared.”
In the second half, the game was brought to a halt when lightning was spotted in the area with 25 minutes and 16 seconds left in regulation.
This weather delay lasted a little over one hour and a half, and before both teams returned to the field for action, Coach McMullen gave his team words of motivation, “It’s got to be us.”
“We’ve talked about being together all year,” Coach McMullen said. “That’s been our message and it’s always been the message for our program. Tonight, it felt like everything just had to be us tonight. That meant a lot more things than just winning the game. It had a little bit more than just a bland message right there than that.”
The Indians were able to keep the pressure on Northwest in the final 25 minutes as they recorded a total of nine shots on goal in the span. Having three of those shots on goal was senior Lauren Welker, who was also able to create a shot for freshman Katelyn Miller.
“We made a little bit of an adjustment when we actually went in [the locker room] on some things,” Coach McMullen said. “I thought that disrupted what they were trying to do, and the weather delay might have actually helped us in that aspect. We came out, and we were very energetic. It was a very long delay and the girls were very anxious.”
The Lions only managed to get two more shots on goal in the final 25 minutes, each coming from penalty kicks as Jackson’s defense was able to keep Northwest from scoring opportunities and maintaining possession of the ball.
Jackson’s junior goalkeeper Emily Hermann came up with several saves in the match with one in particular during the 22nd minute when she came out of the goal and dived to secure a shot attempt.
“Emily Hermann made some big saves tonight for us,” Coach McMullen said. “She hasn’t had to come up big because of our defense in front of her most of the year, but when it was asked of her she came up big. Laura Bertrand, Kate Emmendorfer and Grace Crowden, when she was back there, all did a phenomenal job making sure that Northwest wasn’t able to turn and create spaces.”
This contest also happened to be a pretty physical one as both Liley and Crowden were forced to step out of the game with injuries.
During a corner kick, Liley went for the headshot and collided heads with North-west’s Macy Davis, who did not return to the game. This happened with less than two minutes remaining in the first half as Liley returned to action in the 48th minute.
Crowden appeared to have suffered a bloody nose around the 70th minute, but she was able to return to the game in the final minutes.
“Perseverance. I wasn’t keeping them out of the game — I couldn’t have,” Coach McMullen said. “They would’ve been on my back itching to get in. As soon as our trainer Jake Klien cleared them to play, they were right back in my ear.”
Liley, Miller, Pehle and Welker were all named to the all-district team following the tournament.