DES MOINES — Members of Waverly-Shell Rock’s soccer team have taken their lunch pails and sledgehammers to Cownie Soccer Park for this year’s Class 2A state tournament.
For the second time in as many days, the Go-Hawks sent a barrage of volleys at their opposition’s back line during Friday’s semifinal match with Pella. Dutch goalkeeper Chloe Griffin found the ball 21 times with her aggressive and fearless style often challenging Waverly-Shell Rock’s multi-dimensional front at the top of the 18-yard box, but that resistance could only accomplish so much.
Freshman standout Kenzie Roling revealed poise beyond her years with an equalizer and go-ahead goal leading to a 3-1 Waverly-Shell Rock victory. These Go-Hawks (20-0) join the 2014 and 2006 teams as the program’s only finalists in 13 trips to state.
“We had a lot of opportunities again today, unfortunately we didn’t capitalize on more of them,” W-SR coach Lauren Bauer said. “It makes it a little more stressful for me, but at the end of day we put a few away and it worked out for us.”
“It’s just rewarding that we finally get to play in a championship game,” said Go-Hawk senior defender Sarah Campbell, who matched her older sister Zoey’s finalist opportunity. “This team, we put so much work in, and it’s just a great opportunity. We deserve this so much.”
Pella (14-3) forced W-SR into an early hole in the 13th minute when lead scorer, Grace Held, stole the ball from a defender and converted her 32nd goal of the season. The Go-Hawk defense locked down from there, while Kennedy Rieken was racing all over the field working hard to help produce scoring opportunities.
Rieken completed a lengthy run up the right sideline before crossing to Roling, who made a quick touch and unleashed an equalizing goal in the 19th minute. Five minutes into the second half, Roling made a strong move to set up a left-footed blast off Miranda Kurtt’s assist for a lead W-SR never relinquished.
“I just feel like we could have done a little bit better finding the net again, but we set up a lot of opportunities which I’m proud of,” Roling said. “I just knew I needed to put it in the back of the net to get us the lead. I’m pretty comfortable (setting up shots) and I feel like it’s gotten better over the season.”
Pella managed just three shots over the second half with two of those opportunities coming on free kicks. Campbell and freshman defender Siri Ott often denied Pella’s attempts to work through balls past the back line.
W-SR goalkeeper Gabby Burman made seven saves.
“I think this game has been our best defensive game, and Siri Ott really played her butt off,” Campbell said. “She did an amazing job and really took number 19 (Held), a fast, aggressive forward, and really set her down.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the defense. It took a lot out of us, but it was a really good test.”
Bauer, a finalist as a player on Union Community’s 2009 team and coach for the 2014 Go-Hawks, certainly knows the type of work it takes to reach a championship game. Her team is now one win away from achieving its lone season-long goal.
“I know how much fun it is, I know how much work it is, and what it takes to get there and how draining it can be — three games in a row in this heat,” Bauer said. “It’s exciting in the same respect. Doing it as a player and a coach, I’ve never won it, I’m hopeful we can come out on the other side this time.”
After two days of state soccer action, these W-SR players are confident they can create enough scoring opportunities to take home a championship trophy.
Asked what it’s going to take to win Saturday, Roling laughed, “Finishing those ones (scoring chances) that we set up.”