NEVADA – There was no drama this time around.
A year after defeating Gilbert in a shootout to qualify for state, the Nevada girls’ soccer team put forth its best effort of an undefeated 2014 campaign in the Class 1A regional final versus Clear Lake Monday at the SCORE Athletic Complex in Nevada.
The Cubs treated the Lions as if they were a grade-school team in the first half en route to an impressive 7-0 victory, punching their ticket to state for the third year in a row.
"I don’t know what’s more fun between this and a shootout, but I liked this better," Nevada midfielder Michaela Matuska said. "It was less nerve-racking; especially in a game to go state."
Nevada had three stretches where they scored two goals within a short time of each other in the first half. All seven of their scores came in the opening 40 minutes, thanks to outstanding passing and communication.
"The first half was just dominating," Nevada head coach Randy Davis said. "It’s probably the most focused we’ve been all year. We told them often and plenty, and they did both those things. We were just getting after it and the girls were feeling it."
It took Nevada just seven minutes to take a 2-0 lead. Abby Stephenson and Jessica Helton teamed up for both goals.
Helton found Stephenson on a great through ball and the speedy freshman easily finished just 2:37 into the game. A few minutes later they struck again as Helton ran down a ball right in front of the goal and instinctively kicked it back to Stephenson, who was in perfect position for a header that went past Clear Lake keeper Ellie Biebesheimer.
"I didn’t really think that pass was going to work out like it did," Helton said. "It just worked out for the best."
Those two quick goals took the wind out of the Lions’ sails.
Matuska netted the third Cub goal when she took a ball from Stephenson and found the back of the net 13:39 into the game. Just over one minute later, Skye Borton connected on a perfect lob pass to Kati Cassabaum for a header to put Nevada up 4-0.
Sweeper Mara Rhodes got in on the fun midway through the half. The former forward showed she still has a good scoring touch by drilling a perfect 35-yard direct kick high over Biebesheimer and into the goal.
Nevada’s last two scores came within 1:19 of each other. Helton scored an unassisted goal with 8:46 left in the half and with 7:27 to go, she found Cassabaum for the final Cub score.
"We just connected our passes really well the first half," Matuska said. "Hopefully we can do that at state."
In the second half Clear Lake regrouped and played much better defense to keep Nevada from adding more goals. But it didn’t matter as the Lions had no chance to crack a Cub defense that has now pitched 14 shutouts and only given up six goals all year.
"We work really hard in practice, working together and talking with each other," Nevada fullback Raegan Saunders said. "I think we all did a really good job. It works from the offense to the defense – we all play defense together. It’s everyone."
Clear Lake finished the season at 10-4. Nevada will take a state-best 19-0 record into the state tournament this Thursday through Saturday at Cownie Stadium in Des Moines.
"It’s always been my dream to make it to state every year I’ve been in high school," Saunders said. "This is awesome."
Nevada – ranked No. 2 in the final Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union poll – will be gunning for a state championship after reaching the semifinals each of the past two seasons.
"We’re just going to go in, play our game and do what we can do," Helton said. "Hopefully we’ll get to the championship and win it – that’s what I want."
Nevada will face No. 9 Tri-Center (16-3) in the 1A state quarterfinals today. The game is set to start at 12:30 p.m. on Field 6 at Cownie Stadium.
Nevada 7, Clear Lake 0
CL 0 0 – 0
N 7 0 – 7
N – Abby Stephenson (Jessica Helton), 2:37
N – Stephenson (Helton), 7:03
N – Michaela Matuska (Stephenson), 13:39
N – Kati Cassabaum (Skye Borton), 14:52
N – Mara Rhodes, 20:05
N – Helton, 31:14
N – Cassabaum (Helton), 32:33