BUTLER _ As a field hockey player and member of the marching band, Whippany Park's Jess Klein is delighted when things are executed with precision.
Klein, a center midfielder, is a key component of the Wildcats' slick passing game. The regiment associated with performing on football weekends excites Klein, whose instrument is the baritone.
On Monday, Sept. 12, Klein had one of the assists on the game's lone goal in the second half, helping Whippany Park to a 1-0 win over Butler in NJAC-Independence Division action.
"Our teamwork has been great. Our passing has been perfect," Klein said. "We talk and get the ball up the field. We keep communicating and connecting."
Gillian Graessele, a senior right inner, converted off a corner, knocking the ball into the right side of the goalcage. Carly Yannotta initiated the play, sending the ball in to Klein. She then passed to Graessele, who scored with 11 minutes remaining.
It was the second one-goal triumph for the Wildcats (2-0). Last Friday, Morristown-Beard fell victim to Whippany Park by an identical scores. The goals were much welcome after a preseason in which the Wildcats failed to push the ball across the goal line.
"We were phenomenal today," Whippany Park coach Nicole Allocco said. "Our problem has been not finishing. At the end of the day, a win is a win, even if it's close. The girls kept their composure at the end. They held on. This group has a lot of heart."
Klein, a 4-foot-9 senior dynamo, provides the spunk and is steady and reliable. Over the last four minutes, the Bulldogs (1-1-1) threatened and were awarded a corner with 2:03 left. They did not capitalize but kept pressing. During the tense final minutes, Klein was offering encouragement.
"I kept reminding everyone to stay at five yards," she said. "I didn't want them to get another corner. Butler was pressuring us and getting into the circle. I told everyone to mark up, be cautious and to stay with their player. I didn't want anyone to give up."
The goal was Graessele's first in quite awhile. Graessele broke her wrist in a scrimmage prior to the start of the 2015 season and, when she returned, spent much of her time on JV. Allocco was thrilled to see the goal yet worried the Bulldogs would pull even.
"We always make it interesting," Allocco said. "I told them 'You can't let them hang around.' I liked how we kept playing hard."
Like Graessele, Klein, suffered an injury, getting hit in the left cheek by the ball in an game versus Mount Olive. The gash she received required 11 stitches. Klein wanted to keep playing but it was not possible. However, she was back for the 2016 season opener.
Butler coach Kate McAuliffe questioned whether the goal should have counted.
"I didn't think anyone got a touch on it," McAuliffe said. "The ball didn't seem to change direction. We had to put it behind us. I preach to my girls all the time that they should only focus on what we can control. I had to remember that myself."
The Bulldogs, who tied Parsippany Hills before defeating Morris Hills, have had high-tension games thus far this fall.
"I wanted us to bring our best game and I don't think we did," McAuliffe said. "Our forwards need to connect more and work together."
Standout players for Butler were center back Sam Beck and center midfielder Rachel Stevens. Whippany Park benefited from the efforts of Sara D'Egidio, aggressive at left back, gaining possession of the ball and sending it out.
Allocco hopes the Wildcats remain hungry and cohesive.
"To me, it's more important how you finish than how you start," she said. "Nothing comes easily. We have to keep working."
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