116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
MARION — All Iowa high school soccer teams are dealing with an unprecedented challenge developing lineups and team chemistry early this spring.
There are two new classes of players, plus a leadership void to fill following the cancellation of the 2020 season due to COVID-19.
It was hard to tell the way Linn-Mar played Thursday night.
The Lions were stringing multiple passes together, communicating effectively and keeping their shape like a cohesive unit as they beat Cedar Rapids Kennedy 3-0 in a girls’ soccer match at Linn-Mar Stadium.
“We’re not cliquey or anything,” Linn-Mar senior center back Emma Casebolt said. “Everybody’s here to work hard and everybody teaches each other well. Our chemistry has just been really good from that.”
Casebolt’s role is one of the most important in the roster developing comfort with each other. Her thoughts and instructions from her center back position could be heard throughout the stadium as the Lions completed their third shutout in as many games.
Linn-Mar (3-0) allowed just one shot all night and didn’t let Iowa signee Delaney Holtey have much space to work from her attacking position for Kennedy (2-3).
“As the years have gone on I’ve looked up to people I’ve played with and seen how they led the team,” Casebolt said. “I’ve always been vocal but learning from players above me has helped a lot, too.”
The last time Linn-Mar was on the field before this season was at the state tournament in Des Moines. That was a young, 18-2 team that would have carried big expectations going into 2020. Even with the loss of a 2020 senior class that included all-staters Abigail Santana and Piper Carey, the 2021 team has a wealth of talent and experience to contend as well.
Casebolt, a Loras College commit, is a big part of that, along with Drake signee Hallie Peak in the midfield and goalkeeper Waverly Patterson, a South Dakota signee. Leah Ahlers is also signed to play Division I soccer, at Western Illinois. And prominent in the box score on this night was Kaitlyn Brunson, who scored all three goals and is headed to St. Ambrose next year.
“We have a lot of good, skilled players,” Brunson said.
She scored the opener in the eighth minute, lacing a shot from the top of the box, then finished 10 minutes later after a cutback pass from Lauren Spaete. The highlight probably came with 19:54 left in the game, when Anna Ahlers whipped a ball into the box that Brunson headed into the net.
“Having the year off, it was difficult, but we do have a long line of success at Linn-Mar and we want to fill those shoes and fill those roles that past players have had,” Brunson said.
Both teams wore pink in their uniforms for cancer awareness night. Together, they raised $3,000 for Gems of Hope, which was announced during a presentation before the game.