Bobcats blow by Little Cyclones

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM RING Marshalltown seniors Franky Ramirez (9) and Ricky Ibarra take to the air to celebrate after defeating Ames 1-0 in the team’s substate opener on Monday in Urbandale.

URBANDALE — Monday’s match between the Marshalltown boys’ soccer team and long-time rival Ames was as tense as a Class 3A Substate 6 opening round match should be. A late first-half goal from Javier Nunez held up through the second half and the Bobcats came away with the nail-biting 1-0 win.

The Bobcats (9-6) advance to Wednesday’s substate semifinal against eighth-ranked Ankeny Centennial on the Jaguar’s home pitch at 6:30 p.m.

“I have gray hairs and I’m balding because I coach a lot, and it’s games like this that are evidence of it,” said Bobcat coach Chris Fuchsen. “Especially against an Ames team, it’s always going to be a battle. It’s always going to be a grind. The boys dealt well with it tonight.”

Ames (8-5) controlled the early match tempo, seeing multiple chances at taking an opening lead, but the Bobcat defense stood firm when facing adversity. The Little Cyclones saw back-to-back opportunities in the 18th minute off a corner kick, but Marshalltown goalkeeper Ricky Ibarra knocked away the initial shot attempt off the corner, and then stopped and controlled the rebound try by the Little Cyclones.

The Little Cyclones outshot the Bobcats 10-7 in shots on goal, but Ibarra and the MHS managed to turn away anything Ames threw at them.

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM RING Teammates swarm Marshalltown senior Javier Nuñez after he scores in the first half of the Bobcats’ substate opener against Ames at Urbandale on Monday. MHS would hold on to down the Little Cyclones, 1-0.

Marshalltown did see its first real opportunity at a tally on the scoreboard when Jose Torres had a shot on goal, and then Luis Ibarra had a good look in a matter of seconds within each other in the 16th minute.

Finally in the 33rd minute, Javier Nunez controlled a pass in the center of the field from the left side, and while his shot on goal stayed on the ground, it managed to have enough velocity to get by Ames keeper Ryan Mills.

“The composure,” Fuchsen said of what the Bobcats focused on in turning the tempo and opportunities in Marshalltown’s favor. “First getting the jitters out and realizing if we let the ball do the work, then they’re going to have to put in the physical work, and we gained more confidence. That’s how we were able to create those opportunities.”

Meanwhile, when the Bobcats took the momentum of the match, it left the Little Cyclones feeling rattled.

“We just struggled in the first half. For whatever reason, we weren’t in a rhythm. We were just out of sorts, and I’m not sure what that was,” said Ames coach Chad Zmolek. “We just weren’t composed when we needed to be. I don’t know if it was nerves. For a lot of these guys, it’s their first time in this situation. We just didn’t have the calm. I don’t know. There was something weird going on.”

The win wasn’t big for the Bobcats just because it’s now the post-season and every match is a win-or-go-home situation, but because it was a victory that came at the right time after Marshalltown dropped its final three regular-season games.

“At the same time, we were in most of those games save for the Johnston match,” Fuchsen said. “First game of the post-season, it’s a new season. That’s what we focused on. You win one game, and you live to play the next.”

Wednesday’s meeting with Centennial will be the first between the Bobcats and Jaguars since April 12, 2016 that saw the Jaguars take an early-season 3-2 victory. Fuchsen said it will be business as usual when it comes to preparing for an opponent on a 48-hour turnaround.

“Like we’ve done all season,” Fuchsen said. “You know it’s a grind. We’ve had a couple back-to-backs against quality opponents as well. The boys are fit. We’ll rest up (Tuesday) and be ready to focus on Wednesday.”

Marshalltown 1, Ames 0

At Urbandale

Ames 0 0 — 0

MHS 1 0 — 1

First half

No scoring.

Second half

MHS–Javier Nunez, 32:02

Shots–MHS 10, Ames 16

Shots on Goal–MHS 7, Ames 10

Fouls–MHS 10, Ames 6

Corner kicks–MHS 3, Ames 3