GIBSON CITY — A 5-1 victory over Rantoul improved the Fisher/Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley soccer team’s record to 10-2-1.
This is despite losing some key players from 2018’s 16-2-1 campaign, including Caleb Bleich, who is a placekicker on Millikin University’s football team, and fellow all-sectional selection Tyler Ricks.
“We had a pretty solid start,” Fisher/GCMS coach Robert Dinkins said. “We put a lot of work in this summer when it came to just doing work in July. We played a lot of games then just to kind of mesh the new players into our system, and I think it’s really paying off for the first half of the year. This start has definitely been really good.”
Parker Rollins has been one player who, Dinkins said, “put in a lot of work in the offseason with his club team.”
The junior made six keeper saves during Tuesday’s game, including four in the first half. In the second half, he came up with two more denials, including one on a diving stop.
“Fisher has a great coach, a lot of big physical players and some quality ball control,” Hartranft said. “Being able to string together passes and win 50/50 balls makes a big difference in high school soccer.”
The lone goal Rollins yielded was scored with 2:05 left in the first half that came off the foot of Eagles Gedardo Mateo.
“He showed in practice that he can handle the workload, and it just gave us a lot of versatility when it comes to putting him in the net and having Ethan out on the field,” Dinkins said.
Last year, Kasper earned all-sectional honors as a goalkeeper, but with Rollins taking a bigger role at the net, Kasper has had a chance to play as a middle fielder, and has taken advantage of that opportunity.
Rantoul Head Coach Bryce Hartranft says that Fisher poses a big threat.
Through the season’s first 12 matches, Kasper had 12 goals and two assists. During Tuesday’s game, he obtained a hat trick.
His first goal came via an assist from Alex Minion with 29:06 left in the first half that extended the Bunnies’ lead to 2-0. Kasper scored again on a corner kick from Seth Kollross with 27:15 remaining in the half.
The hat trick was completed via another assist from Alex Minion with 17:29 left in the first half.
“That’s kind of a unique situation just because Ethan was an all-sectional keeper last year, one of the best in the area. The thing about him is he’s not just a keeper,” Dinkins said. “He’s a soccer player through and through. He puts in a lot of time, not just with keeping, but playing on the field, too, and you can see it. He knows how to find the back of the net.”
Alex Minion scored the match’s first goal at the 38:27 mark of the first half, kicking the ball toward the net after receiving a pass from Kollross.
Going into Tuesday’s match, he had 12 assists, along with two goals.
“Alex Minion has got to be close to leading the area in assists because he’s always looking to find somebody instead of taking the shot all the time,” Dinkins said. “Sometimes, I have to get on him about shooting the ball a little bit more, but it’s unique to find a player like that who’s going to pass first, as opposed to trying to score, which everybody wants to do.”
All five of the Fisher/GCMS’s goals on Tuesday came off assists.
“I don’t think we’ve had too many goals this year that have been individual goals. They’ve really found each other,” Dinkins said. “That’s kind of our mentality – to play unselfish and play for each other. When somebody scores, we score.” Dinkins said.
Hartranft said that the Eagles just got in their own way.
“We as a team have a terrible habit of not playing up to our potential in the first half and thus allowing ourselves to get down early,” Hartranft said. “At half it was 0-4 and all the goals were the result of poor defensive positioning, which is a mistake that was entirely within our ability to control. A lot of soccer is a choice and we made poor decisions that cost us the game.”
The Bunnies finished the first half with six shots on goal. In the second half, they had three shots on goal, including one that went in the net as Brodie Doman headed a goal off an Alex Minion corner kick.
“They played a full 80 minutes, which is good to see,” Dinkins said. “That’s the one thing I was really impressed with.”
Fisher/GCMS’s win over Rantoul came one day after a 5-0 loss to Bismarck-Henning-Rossville-Alvin.
“I thought they really responded well,” Dinkins said. “They kind of just put that to the wayside and just attacked this Rantoul team. They played really well today.”
It helped, Dinkins said, that the Bunnies were playing in their annual home match at Gibson City.
“The GCMS kids are always fired up to play in front of their home crowd,” Dinkins said. “You kind of expect them to come out ready to go.”
Fisher/GCMS will host Watseka the following Saturday and Tolono Unity the following Monday.
Rantoul will play at Olypia on Thursday.
The IHSA will post their regional pairings on Friday, Sept. 27.
“I think all of the games that you play during the season, you’re trying to look at the bigger picture – what’s going to make the team better when it comes to maybe trying to make a postseason run. I think that’s been our focus – not trying to change our style, but just to put more goals in the net,” Dinkins said. “We’re really looking to get better as a team and improve not just our 11 starters, but our guys coming off the bench who have really helped us with the injuries that we’ve had this season. Our depth has really helped us.”
Zach Barnes and Chase Minion had been among key bench players for the Bunnies.
“They just keep working hard, which is good to see,” Dinkins said. “We had a few injuries to some of our starters. We’ve had some key starters who have been out for quite a bit of time already. We just got one of our captains back last week, which has helped our midfield. It has been a next-man-up mentality. If someone goes down, someone’s got to be ready. It goes to show you that they’re working hard at practice. If they get an opportunity, the kids are taking advantage of it.”
Fisher/GCMS 5, Rantoul 1
Rantoul1 0 —1
F/GCMS4 1 —5
First half: Fisher/GCMS — Alex Minion (Seth Kollross), Ethan Kasper (Alex Minion), Kasper (Kollross), Kasper (Alex Minion); Rantoul — Gedardo Mateo
Second half: Fisher/GCMS — Brodie Doman (Alex Minion).
Shots on goal -- Fisher/GCMS 9 (Ethan Kasper 4, Alex Minion 3, Brodie Doman 2).
Keeper saves -- F/GCMS 6 (Parker Rollins 6).