On the first day of competition for girls soccer in Iowa, the River Queens had a tough local opponent in Central DeWitt. Not to mention it was a bitterly cold night with heavy wind coming from what seemed like all directions.
They came out with a big 2-1 win in double overtime.
The River Queens have a nice mix of new players and returners. Nine varsity players are coming back and seven new faces are starting.
As the first half began the River Queens quickly moved the ball into the Sabers defensive end and were able to get a cross in by senior Megan Gandrup. Fellow senior Haley Dash was able to get on the end of the pass and finish the opportunity, but after discussion the refs called back the goal because the cross had initially been swung outside the field before curving back in.
“It was unfortunate to have the goal disallowed, but my assistant varsity coach Adam Lemke has been using the motto, control what you can control this season," head coach Nick Hauenstein said. "I felt like the girls didn’t get down on themselves after that turn of events and responded well after that play.”
With a strong wind at the face of the Dewitt players their defense held tight throughout the first half stopping any of the offensive chances the Queens tried to build up.
Both teams battled back and forth throughout the first half with neither team giving away any opportunities for the opponent to build up any attack.
Sophomore and new starting goalie for the Queens, Riley Mussman, looked steady in the goal guiding her players throughout the first half and coming up with a couple saves.
“Riley is the ultimate team player," Hauenstein said. "She worked herself into a starting spot in the defense last year as a freshman, but didn’t blink an eye when we needed her to play in the goal for us this season. Not many players are going to accept that type of role, let alone make the transition so seamlessly.”
With a new back line starting alongside senior Maritza Dondiego, the defense played very well in the first half. The new faces in the defensive back line included sophomores Lakin Houzenga, Molly Shannon, and starting in replacement of Lexy Lemke was freshman Gracie Brown. Those four communicated well from the back with one another and limited the chances Dewitt tried to build up.
“The back four were huge components of our win tonight," Hauenstein said. "This is their first game playing together in the back and they kept everything tight on the defensive side for us. It was a bummer in warmups to see that Lexy wasn’t going to be able to play, but Gracie stepped up big time for us. They all did.”
At halftime the score was still 0-0.
With Dewitt now having the wind at their back, they pushed up their line to show a little more attack entering the second half.
The Sabers were able to get a couple looks on goal to start the half, but nothing that threatened the River Queens.
With players pushed up high for the Sabers, Clinton was able to string together 3-4 attacks halfway in the second half. Greta Greenley and Megan Gandrup each firing off shots.
The center midfield trio of seniors Haley Dash, Allison Mitchell, and Rachael Hensley were key on both the defensive and offensive end for the Queens. They were able to work end to end on the field and find gaps that kickstarted the Clinton attack throughout the match.
“Midfield is such a demanding position because you have to be able to track back on defense and still be a part of the offense when we gain possession," Hauenstein said. "Not only were our three senior midfielders key tonight but I was impressed with how our underclassmen were able to make plays on both sides of the ball for us.”
After ten minutes had passed in the second half, Haley Dash was able to find the back of the net for her first goal of the season for the Queens.
The Sabers responded very well to the opening score by the River Queens and took control of possession for the next few minutes while also firing off a couple near makes of their own which were stopped by Mussman.
With 10 minutes to go, the Queens were able to find Greta Greeley on the wing who had her shot on goal saved.
As the wind continued to play a factor for both teams, Dewitt was able to even the score line in the 77th minute with a floating shot to the back of the goal.
The teams ended regulation tied 1-1.
In the first 10 minute overtime, the best scoring opportunity came when Gandrup found herself in the box for a shot that hit the crossbar. The teams were even after the first OT.
With the wind at their back the Queens were able to string together a few passes before sending a long ball down the left wing for Gandrup. She then took on a defender and beat her opponent inline before firing a low shot across the goal that gave the Queens the win.
“Megan is an all around athlete and brings a scorers mentality that our team had been missing," Hauenstein said. "It was a great individual effort on her part.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the girls tonight. We played with an intensity and desire to get the job done from beginning to end.”
The Queens travel to Dubuque Hempstead on Friday.