DES MOINES — The Waverly-Shell Rock girls’ soccer team is right back where they were 365 days ago: Going for their first state championship.
But it wasn’t easy. On Thursday, Lewis Central, the team that handed the Go-Hawks their only loss in that previous Class 2A state championship game at James W. Cownie Soccer Park Field 9, 1-0, took W-SR into extra time before Kenzie Roling scored 22 seconds into the second period to give the black-and-gold a 2-1 victory on Field 6.
Then on Friday, they faced a tough Dallas Center-Grimes team that uses frequent substitutions to keep themselves fresh over the 80-minute game. The Fillies are also coming off an OT thriller, 1-0, over Pella on the adjacent Field 7.
In this semifinal match-up, the Go-Hawks and Fillies went head-to-head, kick-by-kick, beak-to-snout for much of the game on Field 6. In this encounter, a familiar face became the hero once again.
Roling juked several DC-G defenders near the head of the penalty area before shooting the ball off the underside of the crossbar and into the goal at the 62-minute, 22-second mark of the game to pace W-SR to the 1-0 win.
And with the theme of revenge games in this tournament, the No. 2-ranked Go-Hawks’ next opponent on Saturday will be fifth-seeded Cedar Rapids Xavier, who handed W-SR its only defeat early in the season.
Head coach Lauren Greiner said the game was very stressful, but she was proud of her charges being able to stick with their game plan throughout.
“We continued to get the ball forward, continued to attack,” Greiner said. “They knew better than to just pack it in and let them come at us. We did an excellent job of still getting forward and still out-possessing.”
She said that Roling’s goal was a great one.
“She’s got a great shot, and she cut a couple of girls, and had just a really nice finish,” Greiner said.
Roling said scoring goals at state are more rewarding.
“Especially in close games like this, yeah,” said Roling, who notched her 38th tally of the season and 70th in her high-school career.
“I just kind of thought we needed to score, and once we get up, we’ll be able to settle in and play our game a little more, and just having that goal ahead says a lot. After I hit that, I knew it was in. I knew that we’d have a very good chance, as long as we kept playing our game that we can.”
It seemed that Roling was facing double and triple teams from the Filly defense. However, Greiner said the Go-Hawks (17-1) were able to shoulder the load.
“We have a lot of versatility across the field and a lot of talented individuals,” Greiner said. “Even when they’re bringing them towards Kenzie, she’s good at distributing and finding the other girls, and she creates.”
Roling said she got the ball, from whom she did not remember, and got past the first defender.
“I was going to shoot on my right,” she said. “(The second defender) took a step, so I faked it and went to my left and hit it (with my left foot).”
Though her right foot is her stronger side, she is able to score with both feet like some elite goalscorers are able to do.
“I think sometimes that throws people off,” she said. “I usually get more shots with my left.”
The first half was scoreless, though DC-G (14-3) had plenty of chances. In the 25th minute, Zoey Chumbley knocks a brilliant shot that forced Go-Hawk goalkeeper Gabby Burman to make an even more impressive save to keep the scoreboard reading zeroes.
“I just knew I had to get a hand on it,” Burman recalled. “There was no one behind me, so…”
Greiner felt the defence was excellent throughout the match.
“They were very composed when there were opportunities and when people came at them,” she said. “They kept their heads, they kept their cool. We cleared the ball, and then we settled in and played our game.”
The Fillies nearly got on the board in the 56th minute. The corner kick for DC-G was kicked beyond the by-line before coming back into play.
A Filly attacker was able to put the ball into the net, but referee Rod Christopherson waved off the apparent goal because the near-side assistant referee raised her flag to indicate the ball was out of play.
Greiner didn’t know what was going on until the bench-side AR told her what happened.
“I just saw the net move, and that was it,” she said. “We weren’t too concerned.”
Berman said saw the ball curve from out of play back into the field.
“I thought, ‘What’s going on?’” she said. “That’s not legal. Then I saw the AR put her flag up, so I knew whatever happened, it was going to be a goal kick anyway.”
Burman unofficially had three saves on the match in getting the clean sheet. Meanwhile, Filly goalkeeper Dakota Miles stopped nine of the 10 shots on frame she faced.
The Go-Hawks and Xavier (16-4) met in the second game of the year, with the Saints taking a 3-2 win in Waverly. Roling and Camryn Grawe scored for W-SR, while Brielle Bastian had a brace (two goals) and Abbi Westhoff had the other for Xavier.
Greiner said her team is excited to have the opportunity to play for the championship again.
“We didn’t definitely play our best game (previously), but I also think we’ve grown a lot since then,” she said. “We’ve come a long way.
“We’re finally starting to click and found some positions for people (since that loss). We’re working well together as a team and putting the team first, and I think it’s going to be huge (Saturday).”
Burman was still nursing a ankle injury that kept her out of the early going. She feels she can help out this time around by giving her teammates confidence from giving her the same while patrolling the net.
“I think it will be very helpful that I’m in there with my team,” she said.
Roling is expecting the Saints to be very technical in their play.
“I think we’ll be ready for them, especially since we’ve already played them,” she said.
“We’ve definitely grown a lot. It will be a lot better game. We’ll be able to play a little more of our style versus responding to their in this game.”