DES MOINES — A timely strike off a momentary lapse was enough for Council Bluffs Lewis Central to remain atop Class 2A soccer.
An attempt to clear the ball from Waverly-Shell Rock’s defensive third found the feet of Titans senior Alissa Pomrenke at the top of the 18-yard box 37 minutes into Saturday afternoon’s state title game at Cownie Soccer Park. Pomrenke stepped up and ripped a 16-yard strike inside the left post for only goal of Lewis Central’s 1-0 victory.
With the win, the Titans (18-3) captured a third consecutive state championship. Waverly-Shell Rock’s quest for perfection ended 20-1 with the program’s third finals loss in as many trips to the title game. No Iowa girls’ soccer team has completed an undefeated season since Ankeny in 2013.
The best season in the history of a W-SR program with 13 state tournament appearances certainly didn’t end in defeat for lack of effort. Waverly-Shell Rock produced a 15-7 advantage in shots this match — including a 7-0 second-half edge in shots on goal.
“They were the top dogs and we were the underdogs,” said W-SR junior Kennedy Rieken, who often served as a catalyst with lengthy runs from the defensive to attacking third. “They deserved it. They had the three-peat, but I think we gave them a fight. We possessed really well. We had chances, we just couldn’t finish.”
While Waverly-Shell Rock quickly recovered after surrendering the first goal during a regional final win over Union and a state semifinal victory against Pella, this time it wasn’t meant to be.
“We just couldn’t find the net,” Rieken added. “We knew how to comeback from that, but we just couldn’t find it today.”
Each team’s defense managed to neutralize two of the state’s top goal scorers.
Waverly-Shell Rock freshman Kenzie Roling and her 33 goals was forced into more of a facilitating role, while Iowa State recruit Grace Guidry remained at 28 goals for the year with the Go-Hawk back line of Siri Ott, Elizabeth Schmidt, Sarah Campbell and Taylor Bienemann often limiting chances.
Frequently outplayed in the midfield during the first half, W-SR pressed Lewis Central for nearly all 40 minutes of the second half. A crisp passing sequence led to Natalie Langan’s shot on goal off a Miranda Kurtt feed 20 seconds into the final stanza, while Camryn Grawe had a chip shot saved in the last minute of regulation.
W-SR’s fifth-year head coach Lauren Bauer expressed pride afterwards in the way her team competed.
“They definitely gave it their all,” Bauer said, as tears streamed down her face. “Second half we had a lot of opportunities. We created better. Unfortunately, we didn’t put any of them away today.
“They definitely fought their hearts out, they always do and that’s what is so special about this team is they’re so selfless and they work for each other. They deserve it so much and it’s just hard to watch them fall in such a battle like this.”
Lewis Central coach Chris Von Mende had defeated Pella 5-0 and Union 2-1 in the previous title games. He felt W-SR tested his squad like none other.
The Titans changed their tactics second half, dropping their midfielders and assigning one of their top players, Rachel Cushion, to man-mark Rieken on the edge.
“Both teams had tired legs, but I felt their legs were not as tired as ours,” Von Mende said. “They were killing us down the wing.
“Other than that, we had to hold strong, clear some balls out. Waverly set up some very good give-and-goes and attempts. Either the keeper was there or we just got a foot on it. That’s what you’ve got to do to kind of grind out a win. This was way different than the last couple years. We had to work a lot harder for this one.”
While the loss caps the careers of four valuable senior starters, the future remains bright for this W-SR program.
Freshmen Ott and Roling are already one of the state’s top striker-defender combinations. Rieken will be back for her senior year and goalkeeper Gabby Burman is entering her junior season.
Still, this one stung. The team that started the season by shoveling snow off the field for practice, set winning a state championship as its only goal.
“They’ve been all-in all the time and I couldn’t ask any more of them,” Bauer said. “Since day one that was their lone goal. They want it so bad. They trained so hard all offseason and I just wanted to it so bad for them.”
2A All-Tournament Team
Madison Parks, Lewis Central
Siri Ott, Waverly-Shell Rock
Hadley Hill, Lewis Central
Katie Moser, Spencer
Kelly Izard, Spencer
Josie Lickteig, Pella
Grace Held, Pella
Rachel Cushing, Lewis Central
Kennedy Rieken, Waverly-Shell Rock
Sarah Campbell, Waverly-Shell Rock
Grace Guidry, Lewis Central (captain)