WATERLOO — A challenging run through the Mississippi Valley Conference continued Friday night for the Cedar Falls girls’ soccer team.
Class 2A’s No. 6-ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier controlled possession and freshman Mary Kate Moeder recorded a hat trick during a 5-1 victory over the Tigers at the Cedar Valley Soccer Complex.
Cedar Falls (2-8) had shown recent growth entering this match, snapping a string of seven consecutive losses with a 4-3 win over Cedar Rapids Washington on Tuesday. Ranked opponents are responsible for all but two of the Tigers’ losses.
“We’ve played a lot of strong, ranked teams this year,” Cedar Falls coach Alex Place said. “I feel like for the majority, we really hang with them and we’re staying right there. We just have to keep working at practice and keep working on overcoming those adversities.”
Xavier (6-3) finished with a 27-5 advantage in shots, including a 14-0 edge during a first half in which the Saints set up residence in the attacking third. Cedar Falls defender Sarimah Ogbondah fended off a pair of early looks, including a successful challenge after a Xavier attacker slipped past the Tigers’ keeper in the 15th minute.
A diving save by Cedar Falls goaltender Annika Strohm kept the match scoreless in the 24th minute before Moeder tallied her first goal inside the left post from 25 yards out in the 28th minute. After Cedar Falls put together a strong attack late in the half, Moeder scored her second goal on a counter run.
“I feel like our defense made incredible saves,” Place said, addressing the manner in which her team stood up to Xavier’s early barrage. “They were coming out of nowhere, making slide tackles and saving what could have been other goals.”
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Despite Cedar Falls obtaining possession for longer stretches in the second half, Xavier executed its chances. Quinn Hanigan chipped a shot into the net in the 42nd minute. Moeder rebounded a deflection off the right post for her hat trick in the 54th minute, and Caitlynn Daniels cut back and scored from the top of the 18-yard box in the 62nd for a 5-0 lead.
Still, Cedar Falls continued to fight.
Tigers’ senior Elli Gruhn was tackled off a sharp cut inside the Xavier box, and Emma Close stepped up and converted a penalty kick to prevent a shutout in the 64th minute. Cedar Falls’ Nicole Motzko later had a shot deflect out of bounds. Motzko also delivered a feed to Avery Fleshner that just missed wide.
“Right there at the end we started to see glimpses of momentum,” Place said. “That’s what I wanted to see the whole game, but I was still happy to see it. Even though we were down by a few goals we still were fighting at the end.”
The Tigers’ coach views confidence as a key towards progress against challenging opposition.
“We’re a young team,” Place said. “A big thing for them is just knowing in their heart that they can hang with these really tough teams. Once they figure that out, and once we overcome those adversities, we’re going to be a really good team.”