Nevada wins intense defensive battle

NEVADA – A thrilling defensive war that ended in a shootout was just business as usual for Nevada and Gilbert in the Class 1A regional final game between the two rivals Monday at the SCORE Athletic Complex.

Nevada and Gilbert – both traditional powers in girls’ soccer – have engaged in many exciting contests over the years, and during the past two years, the rivalry has upped in intensity.

Last year Gilbert won in a shootout in the regular season and Nevada prevailed in a meeting at state by a 1-0 score. This season, Nevada won 1-0 in regulation on May 23 to clinch the Heart of Iowa Conference championship.

Monday the Cubs scored another 1-0 victory, but this time it came in a shootout after 100 minutes of brilliant defensive soccer by both teams, resulted in a scoreless tie.

"Every stinking time we play them, it’s an instant classic," Gilbert head coach Dan Jones said. "This game should’ve been played at state."

Nevada caught a big break on its first penalty kick attempt of the shootout and that ended up being the difference maker.

Gilbert’s Johanna Holck nailed the first penalty kick in the shootout to put the Tigers up and then Danielle Thomsen stepped into the box for Nevada.

Thomsen – an outstanding sweeper – stepped up and drilled a shot up the middle. After initially leaning right, Gilbert keeper Callista Koenecke fell back to her left and dove on the ball before it crossed the line.

But a referee ruled that Koenecke had crossed the line prematurely before Thomsen’s shot, awarding the Cub senior another attempt. Thomsen made the most of it, drilling a shot into the right corner to even the shootout at 1-1.

"I started walking back and I heard the whistles and was thinking ‘oh my gosh, what does that mean,"’ Thomsen said. "I was so, so lucky to get a second chance and on that chance I redeemed myself and put it right in the net. I’m so thankful for that."

Gilbert’s Shelby Gibson then came up and drilled a rocket shot, but it was a tad high and bounced off the cross bar to give Nevada even more momentum. Elli Cassabaum then converted for Nevada to give the Cubs a 2-1 lead and Gilbert’s Clare Isenhart again shot too high for Gilbert, really putting the Tigers in a pinch.

After Nevada’s Christie Luppen punched one past Koenecke, Gilbert needed each of its last three shooters to convert while hoping for two Cub misses to force a sudden victory shootout. But the Tigers’ Chase DeBont was wide on her attempt, sending the Cub players at midfield into a wild celebration as they claimed the shootout by a 3-1 margin to advance to state.

"It’s pretty exciting," Nevada sweeper Amber Ramthun said. "This is my third time (going to state) and I couldn’t ask for a better senior group. Beating Gilbert for the second time to go to state is pretty good. I’m happy."

In the first meeting between the two teams Gilbert played tough on defense, but Nevada dominated the game, despite the close final score. Thanks to outstanding play by its defensive back four of sweeper Sadie Timms, stopper Joelle Swanson and fullbacks Peyton Jones and Maddy Blum, the Tigers prevented Nevada from getting many good looks, especially in the second half and both overtime periods.

"From 10 days ago until now, we really improved," Jones said. "I have to give coach (Tom) Isenhart credit for formation changes. We really executed today."

Led by Gibson and Katie Reed, Gilbert also started to find some offensive success in the second half, getting all of their good looks in the last 20 minutes of regulation and the first overtime. However, Nevada possessed a stout defensive backfield of its own led by Thomsen and sophomore fullback Raegan Saunders, who turned in an excellent game for the Cubs.

"They played the ball far and they were fast," Saunders said. "We started getting tired because we’re not used to having a lot of pressure on us. But at half and between the overtimes, we just talked through things. We knew if we talked with each other, everything was going to be fine."

Gilbert ended the season at 12-6. It was a season Jones said was one of the most enjoyable of his career because of how well his players got along and performed together.

"The girls didn’t want this to end," Jones said. "They love each other."

Nevada will take a 12-5 record into the 1A girls’ state soccer tournament, this Thursday through Saturday, at the Cownie Soccer Park in Des Moines. The Cubs made it to the semifinals last year before falling to eventual 1A champion Davenport Assumption.

"It’s my senior year and I really want to go further and actually get into the championship game," Ramthun said. "I’m really excited."

The Cubs, ranked fifth in 1A, will open up against fourth-rated Iowa City Regina (12-2) in the quarterfinal round at state. The game will start at 12:45 p.m. on Field 9.

Nevada 1, Gilbert 0 (shootout)

G 0 0 0 0 0 – 0

N 0 0 0 0 1 – 1

Shootout

G – Johanna Holck

N – Danielle Thomsen

N – Elli Cassabaum

N – Christie Luppen

NEVADA – Nevada had its way with Pella Christian in the Class 1A regional semifinals Friday as it took only one half for the Cubs to dispose of the Eagles at the SCORE Athletic Complex.

Nevada prevailed by a score of 12-0 to improve to 11-5 on the season. The Cubs, ranked fifth in 1A, had nine different players score and five individuals pick up an assist in the rout.

Kati Cassabaum racked up the second hat-trick of her freshman season with three goals and she also had one assist. Jessica Helton found the net twice for the Cubs.

Michaela Matuska, Heidi Will, Abby Bremer, Elli Cassabaum, Amber Ramthun and Mara Rhodes each put one goal on the board for Nevada. Matuska also dished out three assists, Will handed out two and Bremer had one.

Michaela Funke and Raegan Saunders each chipped in one assist. Cub keeper Clara Sporrer only had to make one save on the night.