CORALVILLE — In the inaugural season of Iowa City Liberty girls’ soccer, the improvement is already evident.
Less than two weeks after being shut out in a three-score defeat to Cedar Valley Christian/Alburnett, the Lightning turned the tables on the Class 1A 14th-ranked Huskies and won their second game in a row, 2-1, Monday at Coralville Youth Sports Complex.
“Right when we started the season, you had our key players that we knew about,” Liberty Coach Frank Fiordellisi said. “To see everyone come together. … It’s awesome to see when you step up and play at the level that we can play at.”
Fiordellisi was a nine-year assistant for Iowa High School Soccer Coaches Association Hall of Fame coach Dave Rosenthal at Iowa City West, where he helped the Women of Troy reach the state tournament all nine seasons, including a 3A state championship in 2015.
The opportunity to start a program from its inception was an enticing one for Fiordellisi.
“It’s been good, it really has,” Fiordellisi said. “It’s kind of been nice not to have the expectations every year and you get to kind of see the excitement of the little things from the ground up.”
Liberty (4-8) is led by two seniors who played varsity at West last season. Defender Madi Barta leads the team with five goals this season, while forward Sydni Von Sprecken has scored four.
Both players had the option to finish out their final season at West, but elected to lead a roster that boasts 11 freshmen and five sophomores out of 23 players.
“It was hard, I was a little iffy coming into the season,” Barta said. “I’m glad that I switched because it has been awesome to have a new role because you have to be more of a leader over here. Some of these girls didn’t know what they were doing and what they were getting into. It’s been awesome to meet a lot of new girls and just have a totally different feel for the game.”
Barta broke a scoreless tie in the waning minutes of the first half with a goal off an assist from Von Sprecken. After the Huskies tied the game at 1-1 early in the second half, senior Maddie Bartelme scored the game winner — her first goal of the season — with just over 10 minutes left in the game.
“Keeping our head up, focusing on each possession,” Von Sprecken said. “When we possess, we don’t have to defend as much. That’s key for us. We struggled getting to the final third (of the field). We get out of their defense and their midfielder and we can’t connect up top. Now that we’re doing that, we’re seeing how much easier it is for us to score and finish.”
Senior Elisabeth Fields scored her team-high 16th goal of the season off a throw-in from senior Maggie Cach for CVC/Alburnett (11-4), which lost its fourth game in a row after a program-best 11-0 start.
The Liberty girls’ team is competing as a 1A school this season, but with an incoming freshman class that could number 250 students this fall, they are expected to join the boys’ team in Class 2A next season.
Liberty could conceivably play one more season at the Coralville Youth Sports Complex before moving to its new on-campus soccer facility. Playing at the Liberty football field for the 2019 season — its first as a member of the Mississippi Valley Conference — is also an option.
“That’s probably the plan,” Fiordellisi said. “I think they’re trying to do all the facilities this summer into fall, but I don’t think the soccer field will be playable next spring. … We’re looking forward to that.”
Iowa City Liberty 2, Class 1A No. 14 Cedar Valley Christian/Alburnett 1
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Goals — CVC: Elisabeth Fields 1 (16); ICL: Madi Barta 1 (5), Maddie Bartelme 1 (1). Assists — CVC: Maggie Cach 1 (1); ICL: Sydni Von Sprecken 1 (2).
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