Cyclones blow by Rebels in finale
REINBECK — Down 2-0 with just under four minutes remaining, the Class 1A No. 12 Grundy Center/Gladbrook-Reinbeck girls had a chance to cut the Denver lead to just one and give themselves an opportunity to close the regular season with a victory.
Jacque Kuester lined up for a penalty kick after Belen Ellenberger took a rough foul right in front of the Cyclone goal, and all that stood between Kuester and a glimmer of hope for her team was Denver goalkeeper Emma Hennessy.
Kuester wound up and shot, but she caught the ball awkwardly and it went sailing over the crossbar without Hennessy having to move, ending the scoring chance.
That was the kind of night the Rebels had on their way to a 2-0 loss to the Cyclones in the regular season finale. GC/G-R head girls soccer coach Aaron Mara said his squad just couldn’t replicate the success that led to a 2-0 win over Denver the first time the two teams met.
“When we played them earlier in the year we kind of braced ourselves and knew it was going to be a rough, rough game,” Mara said. “That first time we played them we controlled the ball better than we did tonight, just throughout the night we struggled getting those connecting passes and when you can’t hold possession and have to chase, we’re not going to have the opportunities we need.”
The Rebels (11-5) really did have a hard time getting anything going against the Cyclones (9-4). Denver was faster, stronger and played with more discipline, and that led to many, many runaway looks for Lila Meyer, who scored both goals, and Jordyn Foelske, who had both assists.
“They were playing outside-in and their runs are outside-in, we were trying to get our defense and our midfield to be on the same page and sometimes we had it and sometimes we didn’t,” Mara said. “By the end of the game our legs are tired and we didn’t hold possession, so then long balls they are chasing and we are running.”
With the Cyclones pelting GC/G-R with shot after shot throughout the night, Rebel keeper Carsen Hamann had a fantastic game to keep the score as close as it was. Hamann finished the night with 14 saves, with the only two goals for Meyer coming in a five-minute stretch between the 60th and 65th minute. Mara said if it wasn’t for Hamann the girls likely wouldn’t have a ranking next to their name right now.
“Carsen pretty much the whole season has kept us in everything,” he said. “She is always solid, tonight she kept us in it pretty much the whole night, we just couldn’t put any goals in.”
Meyer and Foelske had a combined 17 shots in the contest and 13 shots on goal, while the Rebels finished with just 11 and four. Any time the ball was in the midfield and up for grabs, Mara said either a Cyclone girl got to it first or they eventually won it with a physical presence.
“They will win every 50/50 ball, that’s just kind of the way Denver teams have been,” he said. “They killed us on 50/50 balls tonight, our first touch was a little bad and when you’re not getting a good first touch and you’re not winning the 50/50 balls, you’re not going to create a lot of opportunities.”
The loss snaps a three-game winning streak the GC/G-R girls had going, and it sends them into the postseason with a bad taste in their mouths. Mara said that’s not necessarily a bad thing, however, especially with a scrappy Iowa Falls-Alden team waiting in the first round of regionals.
“This is kind of our schedule, we play in a very tough area so playing a good Denver team at the end of the season kind of gives us a mental check of, ‘hey, here’s what we need to do, here’s where we need to go into next week,'” he said. “We know where we need to focus.”
The Rebels will begin the 1A Region 5 tournament in Reinbeck on Tuesday against the Cadets, starting at 6 p.m.