LA PORTE CITY — Union Community and Waterloo Columbus toiled through a long season to get to Monday night’s Class 1A girls’ soccer regional final.
That long journey was over in a span of three minutes.
The sixth-ranked Knights scored three goals in three minutes to turn a 1-0 nailbiter into a 4-nil halftime lead on the way to a 5-0 victory and a Thursday date at the state tournament against fourth-seeded Gilbert (18-0) at 11:15 a.m.
“The first time we played these guys, we matched up more evenly for 80 minutes,” Columbus coach Julie Girsch said of her team’s 2-1 loss to Union a month ago. “Tonight, I don’t know, we just seemed to watch the ball move and not get to it. Give them credit, they won more of the 50-50 balls and their give-and-go really hurt us.”
The Knights played most of the first half in the Sailors’ defensive zone and the first give-and-go opportunity produced.
Allie Carty pushed a pass back to Lexi Wagner in the middle, and Wagner threaded through the defense and punched a shot at Sailor senior keeper Sydney Schultz. The ball found its way through the traffic and rattled the net for a 1-0 Knights advantage 17 minutes into the match.
The Sailors (10-8) weathered the early deficit and made a push to the other end, but a Union defense that has allowed just 14 goals all season was up to this challenge, too.
Then, with the game still up for grabs, the Knights scored goals in the 25th, 26th and 27th minutes to take the wind out of the Sailors’ sails.
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Junior Riley Rosauer scored back-to-back goals to make it 3-0, then Wagner iced it with a shot that nailed the upper left pipe and caromed in.
“We were expecting a close game and knew we had to go out there and play 100 percent,” said Wagner. “Even when we had a big lead we knew we had to keep the pressure on and don’t let up.
“You could almost see the air come out of them with those three goals. We came out in the second half as if it was 0-0, but we were very confident that we had the game at that time. It’s that mentality we need to take down to state and play our best.”
Union tacked on an insurance goal in the 62nd minute from Carty.
“This is why we put in all the time and effort we do so we can get to this point,” Knights coach Hunter Zempel said. “We knew we had to go at Columbus right away because they are such a good team defensively.
“We score a lot of goals, but it is our defense that makes us tough. Our defense doesn’t get a lot of headlines, but they are solid and Jasmyn (Bush) has just been fantastic in goal for us.”
Bush has surrendered just 10 goals this season.
“We are excited to head to state and we are taking a very experienced team down there with us,” said Zempel. “These girls believe in each other and we are looking to do some damage while we are there.”