Prep Soccer

Goalkeeper Kendal Runels leads stellar defensive effort for Cedar Rapids Kennedy girls' soccer

3A No. 11 Cougars outshoot sixth-ranked Linn-Mar in penalty kicks for 1-0 victory

CEDAR RAPIDS — It had been six years, but Kendal Runels was willing to give it another go.

The Cedar Rapids Kennedy senior had carved a very productive niche as a midfielder, both with the Cougars and her FC United club soccer team.

With a promising Kennedy roster in need of a goalkeeper, Runels donned the different-colored jersey and padded gloves for the first time since she was 12 years old.

“We needed one, so I stepped up,” Runels said after helping Class 3A No. 11 Kennedy defeat sixth-ranked Linn-Mar, 1-0 in a shootout, in a Mississippi Valley Conference girls’ soccer game Tuesday night at Coe College’s Clark Field. “The biggest challenge has been trying to get back into the reflexes of diving because now I think about it and don’t want to do it, but I need to.”

The shutout was the first this season for Runels and the third win in a row for Kennedy (3-1, 3-1 MVC), which was tasked with slowing a potent Linn-Mar offense that totaled 19 goals through its first five games.

“I think we created enough chances and took care of their top players,” Kennedy Coach Homer Screws said. “From that standpoint, we were successful at shutting down their best players. They didn’t have the ball that much. Whenever that happens, you know you’re in good shape.”

Screws positioned his seniors — defender Hannah Mundell and midfielders Kenadee Dekko and Olivia Hellweg — in a formation that would apply pressure and cut off passing lanes for Linn-Mar all-state midfielder Abigail Santana and sophomore forward Piper Carey.

The last line of the Kennedy defense before Runels was junior defender Emily Waterhouse, who surveyed the Linn-Mar offense from the center of the back line.

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“I knew that they were going to try everything they could to get onto the ball,” Waterhouse said. “I have to know where they are at every single time and make sure someone is on them at every single moment.”

After 80 minutes plus two 10-minute overtime periods, the scoreless game was settled by penalty kicks.

“I’m just kind of thinking, ‘We really need this, we really need this win to boost our confidence,’” Runels said. “I wasn’t trying to put pressure on myself, but at the same time I was like, ‘You got this.’ I was pumping myself up because if I pump myself up, I do better.”

Runels saved a Carey shot, surrendered two scores and watched two more sail wide.

With the penalty-kick portion knotted at 2-2, Kennedy freshman Megan Slinger booted home the victory.

“We’re ecstatic because we knew that this was going to be a really tough game,” Waterhouse said.

The loss was the first this season for Linn-Mar (5-1, 5-1), which hosts Dubuque Hempstead on Thursday.

Kennedy does not play again until May 1 against Cedar Rapids Washington at Kingston Stadium.

AT CLARK FIELD

Class 3A No. 11 Cedar Rapids Kennedy 1, No. 6 Linn-Mar 0

(Cougars win shootout, 3-2)

l Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com

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