STEVENS POINT – Paul Cibaric accompanied Stevens Point Area Senior High midfielder Justice Menge during pre-match introductions Tuesday night as part of “Teacher Appreciation Night.”
Her U.S. history and African-American studies teacher, Cibaric might want to consider taking credit for teaching her how to play soccer.
Instead, Menge and running mates Abby Bohanski and Anna Zajakowski taught Marshfield a thing or two about the beauty of combination passing during their Wisconsin Valley Conference matchup.
Bohanski finished with a hat trick and Menges added a pair of goals, while Zajakowski handed out three assist to propel the Panthers to a 5-0 whitewashing of the Tigers at a frigid and snowy Scaffidi Field.
“For the most part, I’m feeling more comfortable,” said Menge, a junior who served as the stopper her first two seasons. “(Playing up top) is a little different with the learning curve. It’s fun playing those combos with Abby and producing them instead of being in the back and watching them happen.”
Marshfield made no secret about its intentions.
With McKayla Schuer serving as her shadow, the Tigers were determined to make life as tough as possible on Bohanski, a Division II Winona State recruit.
Everyhwere she turned, Bohnaski literally ran into two or three defenders just about every time she touched the ball. Schuer was first on the scene, but she received plenty of help from Emily Critello, Amanda Feltz, Patty Bloczynski and Charlotte Urban.
“We were going to try to take out Abby of the game, that was our whole mission in the game,” Tigers coach Steven Lindner said. “We figured if we could shut down Abby and hold her to one goal, we would have a chance. We shut her down the best we could in the first half.”
Through 45 minutes, the strategy was pretty effective.
Part of the credit went to sophomore keeper Andrea Carolfi, who made seven of her 14 saves. She also received a helping hand from the goal posts and crossbar, which stopped three other potential goals.
When all else failed, Critello, Bloczynski, Urban and Feltz had their keeper’s back by clearing at least three balls off the goal line.
“I was very, very happy with the first half,” Lindner said. “I was very pleased with the outcome and effort the girls had against a good team. Even though they scored four goals in the second half, that was more about how they wore us down and got that spurt. I give our girls credit for hanging in there.”
Bohanski only broke free once and got on the end of a Zajakowski cross at 27:20 of the opening half to put the Panthers up 1-0 at the break.
Things finally fell into place for SPASH 15 minutes into the second half. What would follow was non-stop pressure and ultimately four goals in a span of 10:27.
After Bohanski picked up her second goal at 6:33, Menge, who missed several golden scoring chances in the opening half, broke through with back-to-back goals off assists from Zajakowski.
The last one was a beautiful header by Menge, who ran onto a corner kick and headed the ball past Carolfi.
“I feel like I need to learn to relax, I caught up in the emotions and go 100 miles per hour to score when maybe it’s not the best option,” Menge said. “I think it’s coming to where I have the excitement die down and not have it be up there as high as it was (earlier in the season).”
The game plan employed by Marshfield hardly surprised the Panthers.
Still, with just a one-goal lead at the break, there was some cause for a concern. A slip here or an unfortunate bounce and the score could very easily have been tied and two points disappear.
“Give them credit, we knew they would pack in their defense, but you have to keep plugging away and it breaks down,” SPASH coach Don Peel said. “Once you score two, then domino effect starts going down. You know it’s going to come.”
First half: 1. SPASH, Abby Bohanski (Anna Zajakowski), 27:20.
Second half: 2. SPASH, Bohanski, 61:33; 3. SPASH, Justice Menge (Zajakowski), 66:34; 4. SPASH, Menge (Zajakowski), 70:52; 5. SPASH, Bohanski, 72:00.
Saves: Marshfield (Andrea Carolfi) 14, SPASH (Shayna Molski) 4.
Records: SPASH 6-1-0, 3-0-0 WVC; Marshfield 0-2-0 WVC.
Scott A. Williams can be reached at 715-345-2282. Find him on Twitter as @SPJScottWill