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Union soccer sets sight on return to State Tournament

March 29, 2019
CJ Eilers - Editor ( , Dysart Reporter

Head Coach: Hunter Zempel

2018 Record: 13-6 (L to Waverly-Shell Rock in Regional Finals)

After falling short of a State berth in their regional final last season, Union soccer returns a majority of a healthier roster in 2019 with their aim at making the State tournament for the second time in three seasons.

Article Photos

The 2019 Union girls soccer team. Front sitting: seniors Megan Carty, Allie Carty, Chloe Heitmann, Tori Hadachek, Mackenna Hatch, Karly Jans. Second row kneeling: Emma Corpman, Lexi Wagner, Kerstin Peterson, Carlie McNeal, Katelyn Kucera, Riley Rosauer, Jasmyn Bush, Carlie Hoppe, Aubree Monat. Back row standing: Grace Johnson, Sunshine Gray, Alyssa Hatch, Lizzie Borton, Cora Klein, Alana Higgins, Samantha Stokes, Kylee Peterson, Kirstan Jans, Kaitlyn Calderwood, Madison Frush. Not pictured: Lauren Wagner and Takoa Kopriva.

"I thought we had a good season last year record-wise," coach Hunter Zempel said. "We played some good soccer and competed against some of the best teams in 2A. However, we had some letdowns and ultimately didn't make our goal of reaching the State tournament again. I don't want to make any excuses, but we did have a rash of injuries. It wasn't until our final game that we had our original 11 playing together again. Injuries happen, and the girls were great about accepting new roles and playing through it."

Union returns eight of their 11 starters from their final 2018 game, including senior Tori Hadachek on defense. The Knights had multiple lineups last year and hope to come out stronger as they move down to Class 1A for postseason competition and a regular season schedule similar to 2018's.

"Last season overall was great, but sadly it ended shorter for us than we hoped," Hadachek said. "We had a lot of injuries over the season and we hope to prevent that this year. We're in a new class this season and I'm excited to see what the competition will be like."

Leading the Knights' offense this year will be senior Allie Carty, who led the team with 24 goals last season, including 13 in the last four games of 2018. Carty will be joined by freshman Kylee Peterson, juniors Takoa Kopriva and Katelyn Kucera as forwards, along with scorers in the midfield including Riley Rosauer, Lauren and Lexi Wagner.

"I think our offense has to dominate in the midfield, a make or a break of the game," Carty said. "As long as we have our passes going where we need and accuracy around the goal, it's a huge factor in our team."

The Knights saw All-State forward/midfielder Emma Rottinghaus graduate this past year, but their midfield of Rosauer and the Wagners was among the highlights of last season when healthy. Other names were called upon to play different positions as injuries piled up over time. While a group of freshman and sophomores are ready for their chance on the field, the junior and senior classes will be counted on in all facets of the game in 2019.

"This group has an unselfish mentality where they want to achieve their ultimate goal and willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to do that, not that last year's team was selfish at all," Zempel said. "These seniors and juniors have played a lot of soccer together over the last three to four years, which will take us to the next level with grinding out tough games and showing the younger kids how we approach things."

Despite losing Lauren Phillips to graduation last year, the Knights will return seniors Megan Carty, Karly Jans, Hadachek and junior Jasmyn Bush as goalie for a defense that saw marked improvement throughout last season in Zempel's eyes. Union also saw success with moving sophomore Sunshine Gray from forward to defense to compliment an upperclassmen lineup with Hadachek as one of six senior leaders.

"Emma and Lauren were two great leaders for us and everyone had a great relationship with each other," Hadachek said. "This year, we have a great group of seniors who are all looking to be leaders. Most of us have played with each other since seventh grade, and as seniors, we will encourage our teammates the best we can. It's awesome that almost everyone for our defense is back and we still have great girls coming off the bench."

"Our defense is definitely a strong point in our team with shutting out opponents, which starts with Jasmyn in the back," Zempel said. "I tell everybody I think she's the best goalie in the state and gives us that extra confidence going into games. She can bail us out in a lapse a defense. Tori, Megan, Karly, Sunny will all be back and I anticipate they will be even better this year with their chemistry."

The Knights missed having a deep rotation of forwards last season and shuffled around players, which lead to initial issues with scoring. Zempel points to the Wagner twins, Rosauer and Allie Carty for scoring this year, but also to the fact this team features more than scoring. The three juniors will control the Union game plan from the midfield whether it's setting up teammates for a score or attacking the box themselves.

"With returning some many starters, it's hard to pick out just one area as a strength," Zempel said. "Emma and Lauren were great players, but the girls who've been playing for a long time need to take more responsibility. The Wagner girls, Riley [Rosauer], the whole defense, they are all back to be even better this season."

Union's 2019 season will notably feature nine regular season home games, a departure from the four games last season in La Porte City. Still, the Knights will have a tall order in competing with 2A State runner-up Waverly-Shell Rock and Columbus Catholic.

"A successful season is taking it one game at a time," Hadachek said. "As long as we try our best, the team stays healthy, that's success to me. It's not about the record. I would love to see us make State again with these girls."

After years playing together on the field with her teammates, Carty feels the Knight's chemistry high and ready to take them far this season.

"This team is a great group of girls who excel off and on the field," Carty said. "As a whole, we feel like a family, which is great for the success of the team as we can trust each other. The goal for everyone on this team is to make it to State. We want to improve every practice together and not take any game for granted."

With a deep roster and work put in over the offseason, Zempel looks to "rack up" early wins to gain momentum on the 2019 season before moving into the Waverly tournament on Saturday, May 11 and the postseason later in May.

"I don't want to put a number on wins/loss or anything, but obviously we want to be down at the State tournament again this year," Zempel said. "I feel that's where this team deserves to be and where their mentality is. If we don't take any opponents lightly and worry about ourselves, I feel this will be a successful season."

The Union Knights will kick off their season with a home game against Cedar Falls on Thursday, April 4 with JV kicking off at 5 p.m. and then host Iowa City High on Saturday, April 6 at 9 a.m.



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