It was the same matchup but a different outcome from the regular-season game for the Jackson girls soccer team against Seckman for the Class 4 District 1 Championship on Thursday, May 18, in Imperial, Missouri.
The Indians lost to the Jaguars 1-0 in the regular season on April 19, but the score was flipped in this game for Jackson to win its second district championship in the last three seasons.
“[Winning this district championship] means everything,” Senior goalkeeper Sam Schnicker said. “Especially since [for us seniors] it’s our last year. We want to go as far as we can, and this is a big accomplishment for us.”
Schnicker played a key role in what head coach Justin McMullen was one the differences for the Indians to defeat Seckman this time around.
“Sam and I talked about how she is going to have to rise to the occasions at times, and obviously in the last little bit there she made a great save,” Coach McMullen said. “The ball actually deflected off our head — she was prepared and off her line and made a very athletic save there and kept us in the game. That’s the difference.”
In the last 10 minutes of the game with Jackson riding a 1-0 lead over Seckman, Schnicker was able to secure two saves first in the 74th minute and the last with one minute, 35 seconds left in regulation.
“The saves I had to make were crazy, but we definitely all had to be going forward and giving it our best effort,” Schnicker said. “Without that [Seckman] would have without a doubt scored, so it was all of us [keeping Seckman from scoring]. But yeah, that last save I made there was pretty crazy.”
After losing so closely to Seckman the first time around, Schnicker and her team did not want to lose again and were confident they were going to bring home the district title.
Another difference for Jackson in this game was sophomore Natalie Miller.
Miller did not play for a majority of the time in the first meeting since she went out of the game with a foot injury with around 15 minutes left in the first half.
She did not return in that game until later in the second half, which caused for Coach McMullen to move around some of his players with Jackson coming out scoreless.
Miller was a part of the Indians goal in the district title game, though, as she sent the ball past two defenders to Jackson’s leading goal scorer junior Lauren Welker to make it 1-0 in the 37th minute.
“Natalie played a great ball into Lauren on that one, and Lauren had a nice finish,” Coach McMullen said. “Natalie is a little banged up, but I think come Tuesday Nat [Natalie] will be ready. She’s a gamer, she’ll get out there and she’ll throw her body around as you can see, but overall our effort from everyone — I’m very, very pleased with.”
Miller and the rest of her teammates also put themselves in good position to win 50/50 balls as well as get in scoring opportunity.
“We were relentless, and we knew what we had to do in order to win the game,” Coach McMullen said. “That was to make sure we won 50/50 balls, and we were sacrificing our body on lots of balls. The defense was doing it on blocked shots — our forward players were doing that as far as [Seckman’s] backs trying to play the ball out. They were jumping in there and deflecting balls, so we were very relentless tonight.”
Following Jackson’s loss to Seckman in the regular season, Coach McMullen emphasized to his team that they have to be playing their best come the end of the season. He thinks they are doing just that.
“We’re a different team, and we’re playing very good soccer right now,” Coach McMullen said. “That’s what we’ve talked about — after [the first game against Seckman] we talked about being a better team and taking steps forward to make sure we were ready for this [game]. I think tonight showed that — our effort was fantastic all the way around tonight.”
Jackson went on a five-game winning streak to end the regular season following the team’s 3-1 loss to Cape Notre Dame for the Noon Optimist Tournament Championship five days after losing to Seckman on April 24.
To advance to the district title game, the Indians faced Northwest in the Class 4 District 1 Semifinal match on May 16.
The Lions were one of the teams in the Indians 5-0 winning streak with Jackson defeating Northwest 3-1 on senior night April 27.
On May 11 in one of the last games of the regular season, Northwest defeated Seckman 4-3 in overtime.
Jackson defeated Northwest 5-0 in the district semifinal with junior Grace Pehle scoring three goals for the hat trick to help lead her team to its sixth-straight district title appearance.
The Indians will now host the Class 5 State Sectional where they will face District 2 Champion Eureka with a game time of 6 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23.
This game is the third step in Coach McMullen’s six-step plan for his team leading up to the Class 4 State Championship, which he brought up to his team before districts simply by saying the number six.
“They thought I was meaning the number of seniors that I have, which six just happens to mean that,” Coach McMullen laughed. “But there’s six games left in our season, and I told them, “Game number three could be at home, and they didn’t know that at the time because they are always trying to live there in the next game, but we knew that was a possibility.
“We’ll go back, and Coach Beussink and myself will get the next team scouted out, and we’ll be prepared to play and hopefully in front of a big crowd come Tuesday.”
Schnicker said it lets her and her team know they are “one-to-one” in each game. It also lets them know they are edging closer and closer to a possible state-championship appearance.
When asked about getting to host the state sectional, Schnicker simply stated that it will feel good to play at home again since Jackson’s last game at home was May 2.
Going into the game coming off a win like this, Schnicker believes she and the team need to stay humble in order to pull out the victory.
“[We need to also] play at our level and not sell ourselves short of what our potential is,” Schnicker said. “We go through practice with that mentality every day, and I think that’s what helps us in the end.”
If Jackson defeats Eureka, they will face either Francis Howell Central or McCluer North in the Class 4 Quarterfinal this Saturday.