stefan

Washington goalkeeper Stefan Arney (left) punches away a corner kick in front of Jasper's Drew Belk in the first half on Saturday---Photo by Mike Myers.

JASPER — If a sports dictionary showed a picture beside the word “perseverance” it might well be the picture Hatchet Soccer Nation was taking late Saturday of its latest boys sectional champions in an empty goal at Jasper.

If the 15th overall and 14th IHSAA boys soccer sectional championship for eighth-ranked Washington wasn’t a dominating showing, it certainly was a persistent performance as Washington (17-1-1) overcame a pair of talented and determined foes as well as some very adverse field conditions. The Hatchets followed a up a 3-0 semifinal win on a muddy field over Washington Catholic earlier on Saturday with a 1-0 win over bitter rival Jasper in the championship match Saturday night.

But the win over Jasper (13-5-1) looked like anything but a certainty early on. The speedy and ball hawking Wildcats dominated the first 20 minutes of action, raining shots down on Hatchet keeper Stefan Arney on the dry Jasper practice field, site of the championship match after the main field had been turned to brown mush under the weight of three tourney matches in less than 24 hours.

But Arney, who finished with seven saves in the title tilt, and the Hatchet defense fought off every Jasper attack. Then, just past the 20 minute mark of the first 40 minutes, the Hatchets got their opportunity and made good.

A Washington counterattack led to a Hatchet corner kick. During the ensuing play in front of the Jasper goal, the Wildcats were called for a foul in the penalty area. With 18:18 showing on the clock, junior Lance Davis lined up for the penalty kick opposite Jasper keeper Joe Hedinger.

Davis left footed the ball along the grass and into the right side of the Jasper goal for what would be the only score of the game.

Playing with the lead seemed to raise the level of the Hatchets’ play as the contest was much more even the rest of the way.

Senior forward Ethan Hunsinger credited Arney, who left the match and didn’t return to the pitch with just under 18:00 left in the second half after being fouled hard on a Jasper corner kick, with keeping the Hatchets in the match early on. Cody Chapman finished the match in goal for the Hatchets, and he, along with Arney and backs Evan Wadsworth, Travis Williams, and Blane Arney conspired to toss a shutout at Jasper.

“It feels pretty good. Beating Jasper always feels good,” said Hunsinger. “We’ve got to credit Stefan for all his great saves in the first 20 minutes because we weren’t really in the game until we finally got some kind of surge from somewhere.”

Hatchet coach Kevin Myers noted the many things the his team had to overcome, including the field conditions for their first match, a tough win over the Cardinals in the second semifinal after Jasper easily dispatched Shoals in the first game on Saturday, and the Wildcats’ quick start in the title game.

“This is one of those games where perseverance paid off. We were on our heels much of the first half, and maintained, didn’t give anything up, nothing silly. I’m not sure I can say the best team won, but I can say the team that the persevered best hung in there,” said Myers. “For our kids to come through the mud bowl with two hours rest and a much tougher game ... I take my hat off to the kids, they hung in there. I probably didn’t substitute as well as I should have, but sometimes you go with your gut. I felt like I was going to lose with my seniors. They hung in there and got the job done.”

Myers was in favor of the field switch, feeling the drier field might allow his team to dictate the pace of the game more so than the field WHS played on earlier in the day.

“They’re a quick team and they like to possess, but I kept feeling in the back of my head that if we could get them on this field, we could control the tempo a little bit. We had a lot of it taken away from us by accumulating so many fouls (22) and cards (three), but at the same time, you have to give credit to our kids, when that was happening, they just kept coming back, almost like a counter punching kind of thing,” said Myers.

“We were just getting beat to death by blow after blow to our goal, but we hung in there and waited for our one opportunity and got it. I just give all the credit to our kids, they really did a nice job. It was a tough day.”

Washington will play the winner of Monday’s sectional final from Terre Haute North between the host Patriots and Terre Haute South in the Terre Haute North Regional on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The Terre Haute North Sectional championship match was delayed until this week due to inclement weather.

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