DES MOINES — Courtney Powell was ready to turn the page from high school soccer following her sophomore season.
The speedy girl from Union already had a scholarship to Iowa State in hand, and the club soccer scene filled her thirst for competition. She also found success last spring on the track, winning a 4x100 state title as part of a runner-up team, but still felt there was unfinished business to attend to on the soccer pitch.
“I planned on doing track for my last two years of high school, but I just realized that I missed it and I wanted to be back on the field,” Powell said.
Union’s senior forward has put together a comeback story like none other.
Powell made the most of her state debut as she set a single-game state tournament record with six goals during Thursday’s 7-2 Class 2A quarterfinal win over Waverly-Shell Rock. This scoring outburst upped her Iowa single-season record to 77 goals. Unable to compete in the quarterfinals two years ago after picking up a red card during Union’s state-qualifying win, Powell appears driven to make the most of the opportunity she has this weekend in Des Moines.
“The past few days I’ve been so excited to play,” Powell said. “I’ve been meditating on it, praying about it, I want to take it all the way and win the state championship.”
Running down a variety of long balls, Powell reached a hat trick by halftime with her third goal perhaps the most impressive. She sprinted to catch a lengthy Emma Rottinghaus feed and took a couple touches before quickly angling a shot inside the far post.
Rottinghaus assisted four of Powell’s goals. Union’s final tally came off her corner kick that Powell headed in from six yards out as the Knights improved to 17-2 entering Friday’s 2:45 p.m. semifinal with North Scott.
“Courtney is extremely fast so I know that ball is always there,” Rottinghaus said of her team’s quick counter strikes. “I’ve just got to turn my hips, place it and I know it’s going in.
“She (Powell) is just an outstanding player, outstanding person. She’s always there with the team mentally and physically. She’s an amazing teammate.”
Riley Rosauer added a Union goal when she got knocked down, but retained possession and beat the keeper near post in the 41st minute.
Waverly-Shell Rock (14-5) cut its deficit to 4-1 when Miranda Kurtt tapped the ball over to Camryn Grawe for a goal in the 42nd minute and 5-2 when Kurtt found Sarah Campbell for a score in the 67th minute, but Powell quickly answered on each occasion.
“I think we just came out kind of shaky,” W-SR coach Lauren Bauer said. “We didn’t put as much pressure in the midfield as I would have liked to see which allowed them to play the big ball over the top for her to run onto.
“Courtney reads the ball well and anticipates well which makes it difficult, along with her speed.”
Union coach Hunter Zempel says his team will look to put passes together and play more possession soccer during Friday’s semifinal, yet the Rottinghaus-to-Powell connection was a dynamic weapon on this day.
“We were able to counter attack and that plays into our strengths with Emma and Courtney working together with 1-2’s off each other,” Zempel said. “In the open space, she’s got to be the most dangerous player in the state. She’s always an easy option for us and we just play to her strengths.
“That’s got to be one of the best performances I’ve seen or have ever heard of in the state tournament. Courtney was absolutely fantastic. You just run out of good things to say about her because she’s one of a kind. She works hard for the team, encourages everybody and her ability on the field is off the charts.”
Focused on one goal potentially making the difference, Powell even surprised herself.
“Honestly, my goal was to get just one goal,” Powell said. “I told myself all we need is one goal and I wasn’t expecting six. I can’t help but give credit to Emma and all of the good crosses and through balls. It was perfect.”