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Union’s return to State cut short by Gilbert in first round 1-0

June 14, 2019
CJ Eilers - Editor (editor@dysartreporter.com) , Dysart Reporter

When Allie Carty walked onto the Cownie Sports Complex on Thursday, there was a sense of familiarity for the senior forward. Along with her sister and several of her other classmates, Carty had reached this peak of the soccer season in 2017 as a sophomore, pushing the Knights to the State Finals against North Scott.

"That will always be something that leaves an imprint on my high school career because It was a whole new experience, but I loved it nonetheless," Carty said. "The competitive atmosphere really pushed myself and my teammates to give our 100 percent all the time. I think that is what helped us during our semifinal game vs North Scott; our determination drove us. After the semifinal game, I remember uncontrollably crying because I was so happy. I was so thankful to be one of the teams in the finals. Although we lost, I would not have changed a single thing. One thing I learned was that success is not talent, it is blood, sweat, tears, and pure effort."

That blood, sweat, tears and pure effort paid off two years later as Carty helped lead the Knights back to the State Girls Soccer Tournament in Des Moines after a triumphant 14-3 season, including a 5-0 win over rival Columbus Catholic to win their regional in dominant fashion. It was Union's first year against Class 1A competition after being moved down this season. While the Knights had seen their fair share of tough 1A competition in recent years, they had not seen a team like the Tigers of Gilbert, the final remaining undefeated team in their classification.

Article Photos

The Union Knights with their 2019 State trophy after a heartbreaking 1-0 loss to Gilbert send the 14-4 girls home after a successful season.

"Going into this game not gonna lie I was extremely nervous," junior goalie Jasmyn Bush said. "We had watched film on the team to see how they played and just to watch all the players and how they individually played. We also worked on many new things in practice with offense and defense, with new ways of attacking and a big part was to practice a new way of defending. So once it was game time things were really stacking up on each other and getting me pretty nervous. But I eventually got over it as the game began."

"We got some film on them from coaches who've played them," coach Hunter Zempel said. "From watching, we could see they were undefeated for a reason and beaten teams down here in the tournament. Very good defensively, some good midfielders and up top."

It took all but seven minutes into the game for the Tigers to show why they were undefeated on the season, shutting out the Knights from getting into their offense properly while creating opportunities for themselves. One opportunity fell right in place for Gilbert as they punched a goal in to take the lead early as Union continued to gain their composure.

"I'd say for the first 15 minutes, we were not as aggressive as we usually are and our passing was off, leading them to receive the ball in dangerous spaces," Zempel said. "They ended up with that goal, but for the rest of that 25 minutes or so, we were the better team in terms of keeping the ball and creating chances."

Though the Knights would remain competitive the rest of the half, the score remained 1-0 heading into halftime. When the clock began for the next 40 minutes, a more confident, composed Union team emerged and were aggressive. Only a minute into the half, Carty came inches from a header scoring a goal, but instead bounced off the goal post. Minutes later, junior midfielder Riley Rosauer attempts to score in the box only for a defender to clear the ball off the line. Other opportunities came for the Knights, but none as close and as nail-biting for the Union faithful as these two chances.

"I definitely felt the shift of play in that second half," Carty said. "We were possessing the ball more in the midfield and creating more chances at goals. It was a close game and Gilbert is a good team. It was a battle all the way through and I was glad to experience it with my team."

Though still down, the Knights continued to fight for possession to the last minute, the defense stepping up on several occasions to prevent the Tigers from extending their lead.

"In soccer, if you are just a hair off on your shot it can make a difference and I definitely thought that with this scenario that happened to us," Bush said. "We had many really good shots but they were just a hair off. Yet we fought until that clock hit zero with all our hearts out on that field. Unfortunately it just wasn't the outcome we would have liked.

As the final whistle blew, tears fell from many of the players, some of whom played their final game in a Knights uniform. Despite the roster as healthy as it's been all season long, Union found itself short as Gilbert moved on to the semi-finals against eventual 1A champions Davenport Assumption.

"Many of us began to cry and I for one did," Bush said. "But as we sat down and talked and cried as a team we were all very proud of ourselves. A huge goal for us was to make it down to State and we did so there was no shame because we were there. But we all definitely did wish we could have made it on to play a couple more games of soccer."

Still teary-eyed and emotionally shot, the girls managed smiles as they were presented their State trophy as their families and friends cheered from the stands. Though it was her last soccer game of her career, Carty couldn't help but feel thankful for all the sport had brought her over the past four years.

"it was definitely emotional after the game," Carty said. "I was so happy we made it to state because it is such an honor to even be there. Not a lot of teams get to experience that. My team is my family, seriously. There was not a day I wasn't excited to talk to them and see them. That is something I am going to miss. I love those girls and they are going to do great things next year. I am especially going to miss playing with my senior teammates because we have played with each other for about 11 years. It has been a long journey, but I would not change a single thing."

Overall, the Knights finished 14-4 on the season and overcame multiple injuries to outscore their regional opponents 21-1 in three games. Union also played in the championship round of their bracket in a tournament in Waverly, playing with ADM despite missing key players.

"This season has been extremely successful," Zempel said. "We won a lot of games, but also working with this group of girls has been fantastic. It's a good group of seniors who grew throughout their four years into better players and better people. They've seen two State tournament appearances, a finals appearances in 2017, and inches away from a semifinal appearance this season. This is a special group that brought a lot of leadership we will need to fill next year."

Seniors Aliie and Megan Carty, Tori Hadachek, Chloe Heitmann, Mackenna Hatch and Karly Jans will be missed next season, but the Knights will also return a talented 2020 squad to led a group of next year's sophomores and juniors itching for another shot at the State finals.

"We will return a lot of players who will be seniors next season and have played a lot of soccer over their careers," Zempel said. "They'll have to step up again, which I fully expect them to do. I expect them to lead us back to the State tournament and I'm sure that will be their goal. My message to our younger players is to get better every day. If you want a starting spot, you have to work for it everyday. The challenge for all of the returning players is to continue to step up as leaders to fill the void left by this senior class."

Photos throughout the season, including at State against Gilbert, are available through Flickr and the Dysart Reporter Facebook page. For photo requests or questions, contact Editor CJ Eilers at editor@dysartreporter.com.

 
 

 

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