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Jackson girls soccer’s defense leads to seventh district title in a row

The Jackson girls soccer team poses with the Class 4 District 1 Tournament championship plaque after beating Oakville 1-0 on Thursday at Lindbergh. Submitted photo

Last week for the seventh-straight time in program history, the Jackson girls soccer team reigned supreme in its district tournament. A lot of this has been due to the leadership of longtime head coach Justin McMullen, who is unfortunately stepping down after this season.

There’s no changing that, but the Indians didn’t let that impact their play on the field one bit. In fact, Jackson has been fueled to give “Coach Mac” the best final season possible as their coach.

One player helped lead the Indians to not allowing a single goal in districts is first-year starting center back sophomore Ashlyn Dawes. This was a position change for her following her freshman campaign, but she’s taken on the challenge and more than succeeded.

Not only did the Indians win yet another district championship in Class 4, but they also shut out all three of the opponents they faced. The last two games were 1-0 decisions, though, making for some rather exciting matches.

“It’s exciting that I’ve gotten to be a part of this team this season,” Dawes said. “It’s even better that we could keep our district streak going for Coach Mac’s last season. … Our trust for each other is the best part of our defense. I know that if I get beat there’s always my teammates behind me to back me up.”

No. 1 seeded Jackson had no trouble pulling off a win over No. 8 Poplar Bluff (4-12-1) in district quarterfinals. Coming up with the Indians three goals was a trio of senior Lauren Marchi, junior Maya Domian and freshman Rachel Berger.

In the Class 4 District 1 semifinals, Jackson (17-3) beat Seckman (13-6) by one goal in a game that was decided by the same score during the regular season on May 1. Scoring the game-winning goal for the Indians was junior Rilee Monighan off an assist by sophomore Josey Sauerbrunn.

Jackson junior goalkeeper Camryn Alsdorf had a busy night against the Jaguars attack, but she kept the ball out of the back of the net the entire night with six saves.

Moving to the district title game, which the Indians haven’t lost since 2016, the Indians had another defensive battle with No. 2 seeded Oakville (13-9).

Jackson held the Tigers scoreless as Alsdorf produced five saves in the goal this time around. Scoring the lone goal for the Indians was sophomore Maddie Stelling as Sauerbrunn once again came up big with the assist off a corner kick.

“That match was a big defensive game for us since we scored in the first half,” Dawes said. “We had to hold them the rest of the game, and Oakville did a good job defensively on limiting our opportunities the rest of the game.”

This season, Dawes has been playing alongside four-year starter Olivia Klinkhardt in the middle of the Indians defense. As a unit, Jackson has recorded a total of 14 shutouts and actually hasn’t allowed a goal since it beat Lee’s Summit West (8-11) back in the Kickapoo Tournament on April 13.

“I’ve really enjoyed playing at center back this season,” Dawes said. “It was definitely a big change from last season, but I’m glad I can contribute to my team defensively. … Liv has a lot of experience and I’ve loved getting to play next to her this season. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned from her is selflessness.”

Coach Mac is thankful to have Dawes, Stelling and Sauerbrunn on his team this spring since they had all just helped the Jackson softball team win its first district championship in 24 seasons this fall. Dawes and Stelling were both all-state selections in softball, and winning that title in softball certainly boosted their confidence to do it in another sport.

“Since I knew what the after feeling of winning districts was like, it motivated me in a way,” Dawes said.

Looking ahead, the Indians are now hoping to make the Class 4 Final Four for the first time since 2018. Jackson could do so with a win in the quarterfinals either over the District 2 Champion, which will either be Nerinx Hall (13-3-1) or Ursuline Academy (10-10).

“We are going to work hard in practice to prepare ourselves to “win the week” like Coach Mac always says,” Dawes noted.

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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