Last weekend’s Tournament of Champions in Burlington took a toll on both the Ankeny and Ankeny Centennial girls’ soccer teams heading into Tuesday’s crosstown showdown.
The sixth-ranked Hawkettes went 3-0 on the weekend to win their bracket, while the No. 3 Jaguars advanced to the championship game of their division before dropping a 3-1 decision to nationally-ranked St. Charles (Ill.) North.
“The competition was incredible for us,” said Centennial coach Chris Allen. “We weren’t as healthy as we would have liked to be, but it gave us a chance to kind of explore some different formations.”
That was also the case for Ankeny, which was forced to adjust its lineup after losing junior Chloee Kooker to an ankle injury during its opening game.
“We ended up having to play our goalies in the field,” said Ankeny coach Dan Bertsch. “We took 16 players, and every one of them ended up playing significant minutes.”
Ankeny opened the tournament with a 2-0 victory over Quincy (Ill.) Senior, then followed with a 2-0 win over Waunakee (Wis.). Alexis Legg and Malorie Rowheder each had a goal in both games.
The Hawkettes then defeated Bradley Bourbonnais, 3-1, in the championship game. They raised their record to 9-1 on the season.
“Alexis really came on strong,” Bertsch said of Legg. “She had a fantastic weekend, and really the team as a whole stepped up.”
Legg scored all three of Ankeny’s goals in the final. She now has 12 goals in 10 games.
“It was a great weekend for the team because of our success of winning,” Legg said. “Winning always helps with confidence.”
Ankeny rebounded from a 3-2 loss to defending Class 3A state champion Ames on April 24.
“We played a different formation from the formation against Ames, and that allowed our team to keep the goals down and we also put people in a scoring position,” Legg said.
Centennial, meanwhile, posted a 1-0 victory over St. Thomas Aquinas (Kan.) in its opener. Kenzie Langstraat scored the game’s only goal off an assist by Kenzie Geiger.
The Jaguars then won a shootout against Wauwatosa (Wis.) East, 1-0, in the semifinals. Olivia Brown, Nahomi Lopez, Marisa Smith and Tori Ubben each converted their penalty kicks in the win.
“It’s kind of exhausting,” Smith said of playing three games in two days. “You have to rally back after each game, and you know your opponent is going to be different. It’s going to be hard because each team is from a different state.”
Lopez scored Centennial’s only goal in the loss to St. Charles North, which is ranked No. 2 in the nation. She was assisted by Geiger.
Lopez came out of the box to play in the field while her sister, Marissa, took over the goalkeeping duties for the depleted Jaguars.
“That’s not a look that we’re typically going to show,” Allen said. “It gave us a chance to deal with some adversity and kind of rise to the occasion and even learn from it if we didn’t have a successful game.”
The contest was tied at 1-1 before St. Charles North scored two goals in the final 13 minutes of the game.
“Our legs just didn’t last,” Allen said. “We were under pressure for most of the game, and we just kind of weathered the storm as long as we could–we were definitely absorbing a lot of their attack. They’re a very talented squad, and you can see why they are ranked No. 2 in the nation.”
Smith called it a learning experience for the Jaguars, who are now 5-2 on the season.
“They really attacked us well, and we weren’t really prepared for that,” she said. “But I think playing them was a good challenge for us, and it will prepare us for the teams that we have to play coming up, especially with the state tournament next month.”
The Jaguars will look to rebound on Tuesday when they travel to Ankeny for a CIML Central Conference battle against the Hawkettes, beginning at 6 p.m. Both teams are 1-1 in league play.
“You have to have composure when you play (Ankeny),” Allen said. “It’s going to be hyped up, and the stands will be more packed than they usually are. We just have to treat it like any other game and execute the way we would for any other game. I think that’s the big key to unlocking that game–not making it a bigger deal than it is. You’ve just got to approach it that way.”
Ankeny’s lone victory against Centennial came in the 2015 season. The Hawkettes posted a 2-1 victory and went on to capture the Class 2A state title.
Ankeny has been outscored by a combined 6-0 in the last two meetings.
“We know it’s going to be a back-and-forth match. It’s going to be a tight match,” Bertsch said. “A lot of these girls play club soccer together. We just have to have confidence in doing what we do best in possession and going forward.
“But we took a lot of injuries over the weekend, and we’ve got a lot of girls who are banged up. I’m just praying that we can somewhat heal before the big match on Tuesday,” he added.
Allen said the positives of playing in the Burlington tournament outweigh the negatives of playing a key conference game just a few days later. But it’s not an ideal scenario for either team.
“Burlington teaches you how to handle three games like a state tournament would and that’s good, but you don’t want to come out of it beat up with some very big conference games coming up,” Allen said.
The Jaguars have posted five shutouts this season, but they’ll be tested by an Ankeny squad that is averaging more than three goals per game.
“We have to shut down their key players, and we have to focus on our play and not so much on what their game plan is,” Smith said. “We have to focus on our game plan.”
Legg, who has recorded a pair of hat tricks for the Hawkettes, said the outcome of the game could be determined by a simple factor.
“The key is wanting it more than them, beating them to the ball, clean passing and no mistakes,” she said. “I have played with a lot of their girls, and they will be a strong team. It should be an intense game to watch, and I am really excited to play.”