WAVERLY — Last season, the Iowa City Regina girls’ soccer team broke in a talented cast of newcomers and meshed just in time to earn a sixth state-tournament berth in a row.
While it took that team 12 losses before it rediscovered its regional-championship magic, this year’s Regals have taken those learning moments and crafted a winning record from the start of the season.
“We had a lot of girls step up,” senior forward Lauren Gaarde said after the Class 1A fourth-ranked Regals won two of three games and placed third at the Waverly-Shell Rock girls’ soccer tournament on Saturday. “We’re kind of just realizing what we have to do with the type of pace that we have to play in order to get wins. I’m just really proud of everyone.”
Much like the 2017 team, Regina (6-4) is not afraid to absorb a few defeats against strong opponents from any of the three classes. Unlike last season, the 2018 Regals are undefeated (3-0) versus fellow 1A competitors, with each of their three losses against Iowa schools at the hands of ranked teams in 2A or 3A.
“We’ve definitely learned how to play with each other,” Regina senior defensive midfielder Greyson Dumont said. “Now we can know that that girl is going to be there when we make that pass instead of having to tell them. Now it is an instinct.”
Regina opened the tournament with a 5-0 shutout of Independence, then dropped a 2-1 decision to 2A No. 9 Spencer on penalty kicks without three starters, including third-year goalkeeper Megan Wick, who was penalized with a red card and was also forced to watch the third-place game.
The Regals earned third place with a 2-1 victory over Western Dubuque in which Gaarde tied the game in the waning minutes, then sophomore reserve goalkeeper Abigail Burger allowed just one goal in five Western Dubuque penalty-kick opportunities.
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“That was big time,” Iowa City Regina assistant coach Emilio Tovar said. “She’s been doing a great job this year. She stepped up without any hesitation. … It was unfortunate that we did not have Megan, but Abigail did a really good job. I’m proud of what she did.”
Gaarde scored three goals against Independence and had both scores in the final two games to push her team-high total this season to nine. Dumont had two assists against Independence, one in the Spencer loss and the game-winning penalty kick against Western Dubuque.
Regina still has remaining games against 2A No. 14 Union Community, 1A No. 3 Nevada and 3A No. 14 Muscatine before opening the postseason with a 1A regional semifinal on June 1 at home against the winner of Williamsburg and Mid-Prairie.
“I think we’re doing pretty well,” Tovar said. “I think we’re starting to hit our stride now. Getting used to the style of play. I think we’ve got a good bracket and I think we’re going to do pretty well.”
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