WATERLOO — The gates eventually opened and Cedar Falls’ persistence paid off.
Deadlocked at one throughout much of the first 58 minutes of Thursday night’s metro girls’ soccer showdown, Class 3A’s No. 15-ranked Tigers found resistance from a Waterloo West squad that used sheer grit, determination and elite goalkeeping to fend off a barrage of attacks.
Cedar Falls didn’t regain its lead until senior forward Ally Zierke created space for herself inside the box with a sharp cutback and laser between a diving Izzy Guyer’s outstretched hands and the near post for the first of her three goals over the final 21 minutes as the Tigers secured a 5-1 win inside Sloane Wallace Stadium.
Cedar Falls outshot West, 19-1, and controlled possession throughout the vast majority of this match, but the Wahawks made it difficult for their opponents to put the ball in the back of the net. Then with a key facilitator in her senior teammate Kate Motzko out after a yellow card, Zierke found a finishing touch.
Zierke’s goal in the 59th minute was followed by a score from Abby Hendrickson at the top of the 18 off a Kaitlynn Solberg assist in the 65 minute. Zierke then added a breakaway goal in the 68th minute before making a pair of defenders miss and finishing off a Motzko assist in the 77th to set the final score.
“It was really frustrating, but we just stuck with it,” Zierke said, addressing the match’s opening 58-minute gridlock. “Being able to keep our heads up throughout that whole time and begin to come out on top felt really good at the end.
“We were able to link some passes up in the middle to get us up there so it was nice to be able to show what we actually can do and just connect as a team.”
Guyer finished with 12 saves and was supported by the likes Lillian Lederman, Jordan Trost, Laura Kaliban and Alexus Imbouthong in limiting Cedar Falls’ quality looks throughout much of the first 58 minutes.
Motzko opened scoring for the Tigers with a well-struck shot from the top of the box inside the right post in the 27th minute, but West fought back. Freshman Erin Rankin worked a give-and-go with Kaitlyn Meyer and scored on a breakaway to level the match in the 31st.
“You could see the energy level just went up,” West coach Ross Jones said. “We don’t have that many goals this year so when you get one it’s a golden opportunity to say, ‘Hey we can do it.’”
Cedar Falls assistant coach Heidi Anderson liked the way her team closed out the match as she filled in for head coach Chris Kowalski who was attending a conference.
“Those last 20 minutes are what we want to do,” Anderson said. “We took our time, found space, finished well and worked together as a team instead of maybe impulsive passing. Going forward, I just think we need to emphasize playing a full 80 minutes. I’m proud of how they finished.”
Anderson noted the Tigers (9-8) have embraced a move from man marking to a zone defense during the season with the team using a solid back line as a foundation. Zierke, a fourth-year varsity contributor, has been pleased with the manner in which this group has come together.
“We have been working on our defense and making sure we track back with the ball as well as being able to push up as a team,” Zierke said. “I think this year it really clicked because a lot us who have been here for a while were able to help the rest of the team get used to it.
“We worked as a team real hard together to get that ball up there and to be able to play defense as well as offense.”