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Gaarde era still going strong for Regina girls’ soccer as Grace approaches 100 career goals
Grace, with 96 career goals, follows her sisters’ lead as the Regals’ leading scorer
IOWA CITY — Regina forward Grace Gaarde isn’t alone.
Like other senior soccer players in Iowa, Gaarde’s freshman season was lost to COVID.
What’s unfortunate for Gaarde, however, is she also missed out on an opportunity to form a dynamic scoring duo alongside her older sister, Claire, a senior in 2020.
Claire was Regina’s leading goal scorer in 2019.
“It was really sad because not only was it me, but also all the seniors who were out that year were incredible players, one of them being my sister,” Gaarde said. “It was hard to think about, hard to grasp at the time.
“I'm guessing we would have both been put at the top because we run a 4-4-2. We would have probably been those two forwards because that was their missing spot that year. It would have been very cool to play with her.”
While a year was cut from her soccer career, Gaarde has certainly made the most of her sophomore through senior seasons.
Gaarde ranks first in Class 1A and second in the state in goals scored this season with 38. And, for the third straight year, she’s Regina’s leading scorer, taking over where Claire left off.
In fact, since 2017, every season has seen a Gaarde as Regina’s top scorer.
Lauren Gaarde was tops for the Regals in 2017 and 2018. Claire took the reins in 2019 and it’s been Grace’s show since 2021.
“Before high school, I had never played forward, so I had a lot to learn from both my sisters who have always played forward,” Gaarde said. “I kind of had to think like them and think about how they do it and learn from them about what to do.”
“I've known Grace for so long,” Regina Coach Ann Larew said. “ … They're an incredible, wonderful family.
“She's a very bright, disciplined girl who holds herself to very high standards. And I think that work ethic is a great example for the other girls.”
Gaarde and the Regals (12-5) open regional tournament competition at home Wednesday against Grand View Christian (5-6). Entering postseason play, Gaarde has 96 career goals, an impressive tally in just three seasons.
“She was a special player right from the start,” Larew said. “You think of her as an offensive player because she scores so many goals, and she's so good at that. But she's not just an offensive player. She's always there for defense.
“And another big thing about Grace is that she's very supportive of her teammates and takes that opportunity to encourage and to teach them.”
The Regals will need strong efforts from Gaarde and others to advance through a challenging regional bracket.
With a win over Grand View Christian Wednesday, Regina would play the winner of Anamosa (8-4) and West Liberty (8-7).
“I think that one of the main things we have going for us is that we’ve become more than a one-dimensional team,” Larew said. “Certainly, having Grace as a dominating offensive weapon is key, but now some of the other girls have stepped up and we're not always looking to just find Grace for every opportunity. I think that makes us much more dangerous.”
Should the Regals reach the regional finals, top-ranked and defending champion Des Moines Christian could be waiting for them.
“I think that we have the good fortune to be coming together at just the right time,” Larew. “We are looking at the postseason with a lot of enthusiasm and view it as a real opportunity for us to show that we're a team that has really made progress throughout the season. And we'll see what we can do.”
“I just want to do what I can to help our team be the best we can,” Gaarde said. “Just as a whole, we want to go out with a bang and have fun. I’d like to have a good, final hoorah before the end of my high school career. Whether we make it far or we don't, I want to be able to look back and say it was a good time.”
While it’s a challenging road ahead for the Regals, Larew said she has faith in this team and its leaders.
“We are blessed to have a wonderful goalie. Courtney (Kessler) is a great athlete,” Larew said. “Also, Gabby Sueppel is a very, very hardworking girl. A very good communicator. She’s really stepped up this year.”
And, of course …
“It doesn't hurt to have Grace Gaarde.”