Not even 5 feet tall, Brielle Heuglin felt twice that size Sunday after helping the Sacred Heart Academy soccer team beat its archrival.
The sophomore midfielder had a goal and an assist and generally ran her way through the Assumption defense all evening as the host Valkyries posted a convincing 4-0 victory in the 12th annual Jenna Cooper Cleat Cup Game.
Asked her exact height after the game, Heuglin said she’s 4-foot-11 “and a half. … They’re all stronger than me, but I just have to play through that.”
Ranked No. 1 in the state, Sacred Heart (10-2-1) handed No. 3 Assumption (8-5-2) its third loss in four games and continued to play well through a tough schedule that also has included victories against No. 5 Notre Dame, No. 13 Lexington Catholic and No. 7 Manual during the past 11 days.
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With two weeks left in the regular season, Valkyries coach Jaclyn Puntillo likes where her team stands.
“But we still want to get better every day than we were the day before,” she said.
The Valkyries wasted little time taking control Sunday, scoring the only goal they’d need in the 11th minute. After a pass from Cassie Amshoff, Heuglin made a run down the left side before crossing a pass to Sophia Mankowski, who beat Rockets goalkeeper Alyssa Campisano for a 1-0 lead.
Puntillo said she has been pleased with the progress of Heuglin, one of five sophomores in the Valkyries’ starting lineup.
“When you’re playing 18-year-olds, this can be a tough game,” Puntillo said. “It’s a very physical game, and this (Assumption) game is always really physical. We’ve asked a lot of her to step up the physical part of her game, and she’s responded really well and has had a lot of success.”
Kendall Groza scored on an assist from Ashley Durik to give Sacred Heart a 2-0 lead in the 23rd minute before Heuglin played a part in another goal. Her shot in the 31st minute was knocked away by Campisano, but Amber Sisler was there to knock in the rebound for a 3-0 lead.
Heuglin finally got a goal for herself – her sixth of the season – off an assist from Groza to complete the scoring in the 62nd minute.
“We have a lot of respect for all of the Assumption defenders, but we were focused on going at them and challenging them a little bit,” Puntillo said. “Sometimes we like to take shots from distance, but they have a very talented goalkeeper. So we wanted to get to the end line and do some combination play. I think we were very successful.”
Heuglin was named Sacred Heart’s MVP for the game.
“I think we struggled to handle her one-on-one ability,” Rockets coach Andrew Quinn said. “Credit to her.”
For the game, Sacred Heart outshot Assumption 15-4. Senior Abbey Glover was named Assumption’s MVP for the game.
“It was a good learning experience for us,” Quinn said. “I don’t think we handled the occasion as well as we could have. … Our one-on-one defending could have been a little better.”
Sacred Heart avenged last year’s 2-1 loss to Assumption in the Cleat Cup Game, which honors Cooper, a 2001 Sacred Heart graduate who was fatally shot in April 2004 as a junior member of the University of Nebraska soccer team.
“We feel every year that Jenna Cooper was a Valkyrie and the trophy belongs at Sacred Heart,” Puntillo said. “So this game is always very important to the kids. It’s not just this game that we celebrate her life. We talk about her all year.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and firstname.lastname@example.org.