Pella puts boots to inexperienced Bobcats
It has the feeling of a complete reset in Marshalltown girls’ soccer.
The Bobcats are fielding an almost completely different team than they were going to heading into the 2020 season before COVID-19 wiped it out.
With only one player who had seen varsity playing time before this season, coach Stacy Galema has a difficult season ahead of her in her second stint as the head coach of the Bobcats.
With all of the qualifiers in mind, Monday night’s season-opening 5-0 loss to Pella felt like it was a key moment for the team in terms of learning how to play at the varsity level.
Galema said it was the double whammy of getting the season canceled last year and then losing 19 seniors to graduation as big factors that helped put the Bobcats in a unique position — and largely has left them without an experienced leader on the field.
“We don’t really have any set leader or anyone that’s kind of been through it before,” Galema said. “They’re all kind of learning at the same pace. It definitely makes it challenging.”
The Bobcats went down early against the Dutch, as Pella scored within the first seven minutes of action and successfully pinned the Bobcats in their own half, launching attack after attack and forcing the young center back pairing of Sara Huffman and Tarryn Bell to learn in a trial by fire.
Huffman, who is also running track this year, did not get to participate in the team’s scrimmage against Grundy Center/Gladbrook-Reinbeck Thursday night either. Pella added a goal off of a corner midway through the first half after a goalmouth scramble and then another goal with five minutes left before the halftime break.
Galema said she was largely impressed with how the young duo reacted to a lot of pressure in their first outing together, noting that playing against strong opposition is going to be key to how quickly the Bobcats pick up experience and get used to the ins and outs of their playing positions.
She added that there might be some shifting of positions before the upcoming game against Newton Friday and over the course of the season, since the coach is learning the team and the team is learning Galema’s 4-2-3-1 system.
The system gave the Bobcats more bodies in the middle of the park as they tried to disrupt Pella’s possession of the ball, but it also left forward Alexia Garcia — another freshman — isolated at times.
Galema said it’s another thing she anticipates will get better as the season goes on.
“It’s definitely hard when you’re back on your heels and essentially chasing them around trying to win the ball and get in position, it’s kind of hard to get everyone on the same page then moving up,” Galema said. “It’s definitely something we’re going to focus on.”
Pella added two goals in the second half to complete the victory. But with seven freshmen and four sophomores on the varsity roster, Galema said she knows this team won’t be the same at the end of the year as it is in the first game of the season.
The Bobcats are in a transitional season — with a new (returning) coach, a new system to learn and a year of potential growth thrown out the window due to circumstances out of the team’s control.
But Galema made clear there were still some positives to take away from opening night.
“Our defense I think proved they could somewhat hold their own back there and now we’ve got to get moving further up the field,” Galema said. “This early in the season, you’re still figuring a lot of things out.”