Cubs fall to No. 1 Assumption, 4-2
DES MOINES – In the blink of an eye Nevada’s upset dreams were dashed by top-rated Davenport Assumption in the Class 1A semifinals of the girls’ state soccer tournament Friday at the Cownie Soccer Park.
After playing Assumption tough for almost 15 minutes, Nevada gave up three goals in a span of five minutes and never fully recovered in a 4-2 loss to the two-time defending state champions. It was the second season in a row Nevada fell to the Knights in the semifinals, losing 3-0 a year ago.
On Friday, Nevada was dealt a big blow right off the bat when talented sophomore fullback Raegan Saunders went down with an injury two minutes into the game. Saunders was unable to return, and to make up for her absence, Nevada moved versatile forward Kati Cassabaum to her spot.
Cassabaum played tough in an unfamiliar position, but Assumption was able to capitalize on Saunders’ injury by overwhelming Nevada from the 14th through 20th minutes.
At the 14:10 mark, Assumption’s Lexi Flynn received a great ball from Rose Ripslinger and converted a close shot to get the Knights out on top. Flynn found herself in position to score again almost immediately, and she took advantage by drilling a mid-range shot into the net at the 15:18 mark.
The Knights continued to dominate possession over the next four minutes, and 19:13 into the game Maddie Irmen took a ball from Rachel Moore and got one past Cub keeper Clara Sporrer.
Just like that the Cubs were down 3-0.
"Right away it was a momentum change," Nevada head coach Randy Davis said. "There goes one of your better defenders and you’ve got to make the adjustments. It took us a few minutes and they took advantage of it. Assumption finished some really nice shots there."
But as it appeared Nevada was going to get blown off the field, the Cubs hunkered down and really began to fight back.
The Cub defense – led by great play from sweeper Danielle Thomsen and fullback Lexi Kruschwitz – managed to prevent the Knights from scoring again in the half. In the second half Davis moved Cassabaum back to forward and it immediately paid off.
A few minutes into the second half Cassabaum’s older sister Elli had great run down the field and Kati followed up a nice ball from her sister by drilling one into the net. That pulled Nevada within 3-1 at the 46:24 mark.
The Cubs continued to put pressure on the Knights a couple minutes after Kati’s score, but the superstar duo of Ripslinger, an Iowa recruit, and Danielle Moore – an Iowa State signee – regained control of the game for Assumption.
Moore and Ripslinger teamed up for a goal at the 51:59 mark. Moore placed a perfect header to Ripslinger from 25 yards out, then Ripslinger blew past a Cub defender and easily slipped one past Sporrer for a 4-1 Knight lead.
The game was firmly in Assumption’s grasp at that point, but Nevada didn’t stop fighting. With about five minutes left in regulation, the Cubs were rewarded for their gutsy play as Michaela Matuska hit a 20-yard shot into the net off a ball from Jessica Helton.
The score came against the Assumption reserves and it quickly prompted Knight head coach Rob Eckert to put his starters back onto the field to close things out.
"We have nothing to hang our heads about," Thomsen said. "It sucks losing, but they’re such a good team. We played our hearts out."
Thomsen, who along with Elli was named to the 1A all-tournament team, credited Christie Luppen for stepping up big, filling in for Saunders in the second half. Sporrer had another good game at keeper and Amber Ramthun was again a rock at charger for the Cubs.
Heidi Will also played well in her final game for Nevada. Will nearly picked up a goal on two occasions.
During the 20th minute, Will almost snuck one in when Knight keeper Sydney Lunardi couldn’t handle a ball, but it was cleared at the last moment. Will also came close during the 62nd minute when she again nearly beat the keeper to the ball, but the ball was deflected and Elli just missed getting a good foot on a follow shot.
With the loss Nevada ended the season at 13-6. The departing senior class was part of three state tournament appearances and two state semifinal teams – the first two teams to earn a victory at state in school history.
"These past four years have been amazing," Thomsen said. "We’ve done amazing things and I’ll always remember it. I played with so many different girls and made relationships with all of them. It’s been so much fun."
But Davis is already looking ahead to next year as the Cubs return a ton of talent capable of making yet another run to the semifinals, and maybe beyond.
"We’re very proud of our performance and we’re going to use it as a stepping stone for next year," Davis said. "We want that next step and we’re going to see what we can do to get it."
Assumption went on to defeat Bishop Heelan in the 1A championship game by a 2-0 score on Saturday to claim its third-straight state title.
Davenport Assumption 4, Nevada 2
DA 3 1 – 4
N 0 2 – 2
DA – Lexi Flynn (Rose Ripslinger), 14:10
DA – Flynn, 15:18
DA – Maddie Irmen (Rachel Moore), 19:13
N – Kati Cassabaum (Elli Cassabaum), 46:24
DA – Ripslinger (Danielle Moore), 51:59
N – Michaela Matuska (Jessica Helton), 74:24