Matuska, defense lift Cubs to 1-0 victory

NEVADA – Awesome defense and the ability control the ball on offense helped Nevada knock off top rival Gilbert in a showdown for the Heart of Iowa Conference girls’ soccer championship Thursday at the SCORE Athletic Complex in Nevada.

Gilbert (10-5, 3-1) gave a Nevada team ranked fifth in Class 1A all it could handle. But the Cubs (10-5, 4-0) received a goal from midfielder Michaela Matuska late in the first half, and thanks great defense and ball control in the second half, that’s all they needed in a 1-0 victory.

"Playing Gilbert is always just a thrill," Nevada sweeper Danielle Thomsen said. "They are our rivals and they are a very good team. We know we have to come and play the best we can. We take them seriously and beating them always feels good."

Gilbert came out and played Nevada evenly in the first 30 minutes.

Nevada had five good scoring opportunities in that stretch, but Gilbert’s defense turned them back each time. Tiger keeper Calista Koeneke made a nice diving save on one of the Cub scoring chances.

With the final 10 minutes of the half approaching, Nevada found a way to get on the scoreboard.

Abigail Bremer forwarded a nice ball to Matuska, who fired a 15-yard shot from the center of the field that was a little out of the reach of Koeneke. The ball landed perfectly just inside the post on the right side of the net.

"I laid it off to (Abigail) and she laid it back and I just took a touch and a shot," Matuska said. "I’ve been working on my shot a lot in practice and luckily it went in."

Gilbert quickly responded with its best offensive run of the game. The Tigers’ Joy Battles managed to get through some traffic on an attack and nearly got off a shot inside the box.

But Thomsen came swooping in out of nowhere with a sliding stop to clear the ball.

"This was for the conference championship and a really big game, so I knew I had to do whatever I could do to get the ball out," Thomsen said. "I slid in and thankfully it went out."

Gilbert’s Maddie Blum fired off a shot with around one minute left, but it was wide of the mark as Nevada took a 1-0 lead at the half.

In the second half, Nevada dominated possession of the ball.

The Cubs fired off six quality shots on goal. Mara Rhodes and Heidi Will drilled shots that went off the post and Elli Cassabaum also got off a rocket that was deflected away nicely by Koeneke.

"They pass and possess the ball so well and we knew that coming in," Gilbert head coach Dan Jones said. "This team and Dallas Center-Grimes are the two best teams we’ve faced."

Jones said he thought in addition to playing Nevada nearly even in the first half, his team did a great job weathering the storm in the second half. The Tigers just couldn’t get anything going offensively against Nevada’s stout defensive back four of Thomsen, fullbacks Raegan Saunders and Lexi Kruschwitz, and charger Amber Ramthun.

"We broke down more in the second half, but we also countered better," Jones said. "They were putting pressure on us and our girls responded, but their defense is just so good."

The loss ended a nine-game winning streak for Gilbert. But it didn’t do anything to diminish the Tigers’ confidence as they’ll likely get another shot at Nevada when Class 1A regional play begins next week.

"We want to go back to state," Jones said. "Obviously we’ll have to play these guys to get there."

Last season Nevada defeated Gilbert in the 1A quarterfinals at state before falling to eventual champion Davenport Assumption in the semifinals. This year, Nevada and Gilbert are on the opposite sides of the 1A Region 4 bracket.

"Maybe we’ll play them again and it’ll be a good game," Matuska said. "Our goal is to make it to state again and advance further than we did last year."

Gilbert opens up regional competition against Webster City at home next Tuesday. Nevada will receive a first-round bye before taking on either Collins-Maxwell-Baxter or Pella Christian in the semifinals at Nevada next Friday.

Nevada 1, Gilbert 0

G 0 0 – 0

N 1 0 – 1

Scoring

First half

N – Michaela Matuska (Abigail Bremer), 31:24

NEVADA – It wasn’t much of a contest for the No. 5 Nevada girls’ soccer team May 21 against Prairie City-Monroe at the SCORE Athletic Complex in Nevada.

The Cubs needed only one half to dispose of the Mustangs, winning 11-0 as the game was called after the half due to the 10-goal mercy rule.

Seven different players scored for Nevada in the blowout.

Elli Cassabaum and her younger sister Kati led the way for the Cubs. Elli recorded a hat-trick with three goals and Kati produced two goals and assists apiece.

Heidi Will also scored twice and she handed out one assist. Jessica Helton, Michaela Matuska, Amber Ramthun and Erin Sellberg each scored once for the Cubs. Katie Tyler and Courtney Will dished out one assist apiece for Nevada.

Victoria Johnston played 25 minutes at keeper for the Cubs and she made three saves. Clara Sporrer made one save in 15 minutes at goalie.