Sarah Peplinski painted a solitary florescent green figure on her half of the soccer field Tuesday night.
She had the best seat in Community Stadium in Goerke Park, watching her Stevens Point Area Senior High teammates put on a skillful exhibition in a 10-0 blanking of Merrill behind four goals and a pair of assists from sophomore Abby Bohanski.
It would have been easy to understand if Peplinski had let her mind wander just a bit, her thoughts turning to today, senior keeper if her mind wandered a little bit.
And just maybe her thoughts at some point turned to today, surrounded by family and friends, when Peplinski is scheduled to sign a letter-of-intent to play soccer at NCAA Division I San Jose State.
“I used to want to play college hockey, but I’ve put so much time into goalkeeping that it became my passion,” said Peplinski, who chose the Spartans over Marist to continue her soccer career in college. “When I visited out there, I got a better feel and it fit me better.”
Odds are Peplinski will be kept a little busier once she sees the field at San Jose State.
That can be good and bad thing.
“You kind of have mixed emotions (about not facing many shots),” said Peplinski, who was called on to make just one save in 64 minutes of a match halted by the 10-goal mercy rule. “You don’t like being bored, but having more action can be nerve-wracking.”
There was no need for any nerves as the Panthers grabbed a 2-0 lead barely 3 minutes into the match.
For first-year Bluejays coach Stephanie Nelson this was the first step in a building process that she hopes will eventually find Merrill on even footing with the likes SPASH, D.C. Everest and Wisconsin Rapids.
Seeing her senior keeper Taylor Hudzinski in tears after the game gave Nelson a sense her players are passionate about the game, and that’s an encouraging building block.
“We know we have to build up our youth programs. In the long run it might take 10 years to get our youth programs better,” said Nelson, who has exchanged her volleyball coaching hat at Merrill for the sport she played in college. “I know a lot more about soccer than volleyball.
“This was our first time out on a field and we didn’t play bad at all. Our kids did their best,” Nelson added. “But their players have been playing together longer than our girls have been playing soccer.”
Hudzinski was hardly to blame for any of the goals.
The superior skills and speed of a multitude of Panthers often left Hudzinski, who finished with nine saves, defenseless in a one-on-one situations — huge advantage to the offensive player.
That is especially true for talents like Bohanski, who is just as dangerous finding the back of the net with a blast from 20 yards out as dribble past several defenders and picking where she wants to place the ball.
“I can’t do any of that without my teammates. I can’t thank them enough, and I wanted to give it back to them,” Bohanski said.
She had plenty of company in the scoring department.
Senior Alyssa Harvey collected a pair of goals and an assist, while junior Jen Hoerter added two goals. Casey Jahn also scored for SPASH, which also benefitted from an own-goal 81 seconds into the game.
The finishing touch turned out to be an indirect free kick by Hoerter from 25 yards out that was perfectly placed in the upper right hand corner of the Merrill goal.
SPASH coach had nothing to complain about in the conference opener.
“We were a very unselfish team and played well together on the offensive side and the defensive side. All over, we played well,” Peel said.
First half: 1. SPASH, Claire Peterson (own goal), 1:21; 2. SPASH, Alyssa Harvey, 3:08; 3. SPASH, Casey Jahn (Abby Bohanski), 15:45; 4. SPASH, Bohanski, 16:50; 5. SPASH, Harvey, 29:16 (penalty kick); 6. SPASH, Bohanski (Jen Hoerter), 31:35.
Second half: 7. SPASH, Bohanski (Jamie Clemens), 45:05; 8. SPASH, Bohanski (Brittanie Pinter), 45:41; 9. SPASH, Hoerter (Harvey), 62:08; 10, SPASH, Hoerter (Bohanski), 64:45.
Saves: Merrill (Taylor Hudzinski) 9, SPASH (Sarah Peplinski) 1.
Records: SPASH 2-0-1, 1-0 Valley; Merrill 0-1, 0-1 Valley.