MUSCATINE – On several occasions, Molly Shannon had to turn and sprint towards the goal she was helping defend.
That was the story for the Clinton girls’ soccer team and its back line, who was pressured early and often during a season-ending 5-0 loss to Muscatine in regional action Wednesday night at the Muscatine Soccer Complex.
“We were able to put together 30 or 35 minutes of really quality soccer in the first half but I think there were just times where we broke down our focus,” CHS coach Nick Hauenstein said. “They [Muscatine] are a quality side and were able to put away three opportunities in the first half.”
Clinton finishes the season with a 6-11 record, marking the team’s highest win total since 2016, when the Queens won eight games.
Muscatine, ranked No. 14 in the Class 3A competition, wasted little time lighting the scoreboard, as Natalie Lingle netted an unassisted goal in the sixth minute to take an early 1-0 advantage.
That was just the start.
The Muskies scored twice more before the intermission, as Macy Connor netted a rebound off the post in the 20th minute and Emma Freyermuth added a late dagger to stake a 3-0 lead with less than a minute before the intermission.
Clinton was without starting goalie Rylie Mussman, who missed her second consecutive contest with concussion symptoms. The sophomore was also sidelined during the Queens’ regular-season finale, a 4-2 loss to Davenport North last Tuesday.
“She [Mussman], as a first-year goalie, has been instrumental in our success and keeping us in a lot of games this year,” Hauenstein said.
Trinity Smith, a freshman, stepped in between the goal and turned in a serviceable performance, but the high-powered Muskies were simply overwhelming in their constant attack.
“Trinity stepped in very well today but just with the experience Rylie [Mussman] has gathered throughout the year, her presence in the back was definitely missed.”
The River Queens failed to generate scoring opportunities, as the bulk of the offensive strategy hinged on sending the ball upfield to Greta Greenly, hoping the feisty freshman could beat a host of defenders to fire off a clean look at the goal.
If not for a leg injury and a swarm of disciplined Muskies, she likely would have pulled it off, too.
“Our work ethic on defense was tremendous throughout the game and I think that is something that played into having tired legs when it came to offense because we were exerting a lot of energy tracking back on defense,” Hauenstein said.
Muscatine will play the victor of North Linn and Dubuque Hempstead for the regional title Monday.
Saying farewell and looking ahead
Clinton’s senior cast will be sorely missed, as all five graduates (Maritza Dondiego, Rachael Hensley, Haley Dash, Megan Gandrup and Allison Mitchell) played significant minutes for this year’s team.
Gandrup, Dash and Mitchell combined for 18 of the team’s 31 goals (58 percent) this season while Dondiego and Hensley were stable figures on defense and in the middle of the pitch.
But this year’s group featured only two juniors, which paves the way for an underclassmen group that saw valuable experience throughout the season.
“Next season, we bring back a very large bulk of our team,” Hauenstein said. “There is a lot of optimism with the amount of freshmen and sophomores that got a lot of playing time.
Plus, the team’s four backline defenders are set to return.
“It’s going to be huge having all four of them and our goalie back,” he said. “Offensively, Sofia [Tello] and Greta [Greenly] have really grown into their roles.
“I’m excited to see the work they put in between now and next year.”