WAVERLY — The Union Community girls’ soccer team knew it needed a more diverse offensive attack this season.
The graduation of all-state forward Courtney Powell — who scored 80 goals last season and is now at Iowa State — shifted more responsibility to senior midfielder Emma Rottinghaus.
“Emma is the leader of that (diversification),” said Union Coach Hunter Zempel, who will lead the Class 2A 14th-ranked Knights into a game at 1A No. 4 Iowa City Regina Monday at 5. “She’s our most experienced player, our best player and our leadership just falls on her to just take a role on the field and be a leader for us. Get the ball, spread it around to our other playmakers and she does a great job of that.”
As Powell led the state in goals last season, Rottinghaus was the state leader with 38 assists. This season, Rottinghaus has helped mentor an emerging cast of goal-scorers such as junior Allie Carty (nine goals, four assists) and sophomores Riley Rosauer (five goals, team-high nine assists), Lauren Wagner (five goals, three assists) and Lexi Wagner (five goals, four assists). Last year, Rottinghaus could just send the ball upfield and rely on Powell to outrun players to the ball. This season, she has adeptly adjusted her game to place the ball more at the feet of her young forwards.
“I just like to play how they play, try and transition myself into the way they play just to get them more involved,” said Rottinghaus, who has posted a team-high 10 goals this season and is second on the team with eight assists. “I don’t find it as much of struggle just because I am always there and if they have the drop, I’m there for them. We’re all working together to make things work.”
Rottinghaus will play college soccer next season for Coach Bruce Erickson at the University of Northern Iowa, which enjoyed a 14-win fall campaign, the best in school history.
“He liked my ability to move through the midfield, find the gaps and just play as a team and put my heart out there,” Rottinghaus said. “They’re close to home. I like the program. He made it pretty far this year with that program. I see him turning things around.”
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Union (8-4) has won six of its last seven games, including Saturday wins over previously-undefeated 1A No. 2 Center Point-Urbana and 2A No. 5 Adel ADM at the Waverly-Shell Rock tournament.
The Knights are the defending state runners-up in 2A and will open the postseason with a regional semifinal game at home on May 29 against the winner of Independence and South Tama. Win there, and a rematch with 2A No. 2 Waverly-Shell Rock — which dropped Union, 5-1, on April 10 — likely awaits.
“They’re a tough team,” Rottinghaus said. “We like playing them. We like the challenge. We’re focused right now, everyone on the team. One-hundred percent effort, every practice, every game. Everyone is just grinding in practice, working hard. No one is giving up.”
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