The Marshalltown girls' soccer team is not playing like the 3-15 team it was last year. And the Bobcats don't plan on going back there any time soon.
Playing against Class 2A No. 8 Pella, the Bobcats played right with the Dutch for 80 minutes and nearly scored the upset at Leonard Cole Field on Monday.
Marshalltown fought back from a two-goal deficit twice but couldn't get over the hump in a 4-3 defeat.
T-R PHOTO BY TROY HYDE
Marshalltown junior Morgan Gardalen, left, battles Pella’s Riggen Blom for possession during the Bobcats’ 4-3 loss to the Dutch at Leonard Cole Field on Monday. It was the Bobcats’ first loss.
"We are so much improved this year and I am really happy with our effort," MHS coach Allie Osmundson said. "We battled tonight and stuck to the gameplan."
The Dutch beat Marshalltown 6-0 in Pella last year. And the Bobcats of old would have folded up their tents after going down 1-0 on Monday. This year's Marshalltown team is different.
"We showed a lot of maturity. Last year if we got scored on we'd just drop our heads," Osmundson said. "This year, we never gave up. That is a really big improvement. That's why we got blown out so much last year. We are lot more mature this year and the big thing is that they have bought into what we want to do out there."
The Bobcats got two goals from freshman Ruth Boland and Molly Major also scored on a corner kick from sister Megan Major.
Marshalltown (4-1) has now scored 10 goals in regulation this season. The Bobcats ended 2012 with 11 straight scoreless games.
"It's going to be a fun year. We are having more fun," Osmundson said. "They are buying into what we are trying to teach them and have embraced it and I am just really proud of this team."
Amanda Hughes had eight saves in the loss for the Bobcats in goal. She was busy in the first few minutes as Pella used several through balls to create scoring chances.
Hughes stopped four shots in the first 15 minutes - one of which came in a one-on-one situation - until Pella finally got on the board.
Bri Schroder, a Class 2A second-team all-state selection last season, got free in the open field following a through ball. She drew several defenders and then dumped it off to teammate Mallory Lynch, who then drove the ball past Hughes for the easy score.
There wasn't much the junior Bobcat goalkeeper could do as the Dutch broke the scoreboard first in the 21st minute.
"Pella likes to use through balls. That's what they do," Osmundson said. "After that first goal on the through ball, we adjusted to it. We understood what to do after that and defended it better."
Boland came through in the clutch for the Bobcats with less than 5 minutes to play in the first half.
Her equalizer with 4:36 to play came off a nice pass from Rachel Whaley and the game remained knotted at 1 going into the break.
Pella came out strong after the break. The Dutch jumped right back in front less than 5 minutes into the second half, scoring off a free kick from Allie De Meulenaere. Schroder received the free kick and put the ball past Hughes with a nifty header.
Molly Major nearly tied the match for the Bobcats but her attempt in the 45th minute sailed just over the crossbar.
The next big momentum shifter came in the 50th minute. De Meulenaere had the chance to put the Dutch up 3-1 with a penalty kick following a hand ball in the box, but Hughes came through with a big stop on the attempt.
The missed opportunity didn't faze the Dutch (3-0) though. Two minutes after the missed penalty kick, Lynch paid back Schroder with a nifty assist and the all-stater put it past Hughes for her second goal of the match.
The Bobcats refused to go away though.
Three minutes later, Marshalltown cut into its deficit with a goal off a corner kick. Megan Major served up a corner kick just in front of the net that was stopped by Pella goalkeeper Zoe Vermeer. However, the ball got away from Vermeer and Molly Major tapped it in to make it 3-2.
"Megan had a good corner kick in front of the goal, right where we want it," Osmundson said. "It looked like the goalie had it but Molly was able to follow it up and that's what we want."
Pella managed to go back up by two goals when Gabi Meirick put the ball past Hughes. Meirick was an honorable mention all-state selection last year for the Dutch.
Just as the game seemed to shift back into the Dutch's favor for good, the Bobcats struck again, once again trimming Pella's lead to one goal.
And it was Boland again for Marshalltown. This time, she pressured the Dutch defenders in the Bobcats' offensive end and forced a turnover. Her strong individual effort eventually ended in a nifty goal that shot past Vermeer in the left corner of the net.
"She is a really hard working player," Osmundson said of Boland. "We knew if we could pressure (Pella), they would turn the ball over. That is what we wanted them to do and Ruth did a nice job on that play."
Unfortunately for Marshalltown, there just wasn't enough time in the match to even the score.
But Osmundson thought her squad could have been more assertive in the final 10 minutes.
"We wanted to go a little faster there at the end," Osmundson said. "They beat us on the little things. The little things matter. When we needed to score there late, we kicked it out and we should have kicked it up. We'll learn that stuff though. We'll continue to get better."
The Bobcats, who already have more wins in 2013 than they did in all of 2012, return to Leonard Cole Field on Thursday when they face Des Moines Roosevelt at 7:30 p.m. ... The Dutch out-shot Marshalltown 12-5 and held an 8-4 advantage in shots on goal. ... Both Pella and the Bobcats entered the match not having allowed a goal against them this season.