IOWA CITY — The term 'rebuild' has never been associated with Iowa City West girls’ soccer.
But a program with 17 state tournament appearances, including 10 in a row, finds itself building back up after the graduation of 19 seniors in two years.
“We just try and build every single day,” said West Coach David Rosenthal, who will lead the Women of Troy (1-15) into a Class 3A regional quarterfinal game against No. 15 Iowa City High (9-6) Saturday at 10 a.m. at the University of Iowa Soccer Complex. “If we talk about improving this or improving that and we can do it, then we will. I think it is having a sense of pride in what our program offers and what we do here and little things that you hold on to, about a small victory here, a small victory there.”
It would be difficult to find a more accomplished coach to lead the West reboot than Rosenthal, 53. The head coach since 1995 – three years before girls’ soccer was sanctioned by the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union – Rosenthal won state titles in 2004 and 2015 and is a member of the Iowa High School Soccer Coaches Association Hall of Fame. In January, he was honored as the national girls’ soccer coach of the year by the National Federation of State High School Associations.
“I’ve been really, really fortunate,” Rosenthal said. “An award like that is because of all the club coaches that develop these kids, because of all the parents that support the program and because we have an administration that supports developing a field like (Barker Field).”
In addition to the loss of eight starters and 70 percent of the scoring from last year’s state semifinal team, the West roster also sustained a reduction due to the opening of Liberty High School just up the road.
Rosenthal also theorizes that lower club soccer participation in eastern Iowa has materialized due to concussion concerns and athletes specializing in one sport.
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“Every single year presents a different team, poses different challenges,” Rosenthal said. “Whether it is on the field or off the field, whether it is the players, whether it is the system, whether it is the opponents, all those things can be very challenging. This year, we have an unusual number of losses. We’ve had to figure those types of things out, not only on the field and system-wise, but mentally, emotionally and the girls are actually dealing with it pretty well.”
West has been shut out 11 times and has scored more than one goal just once this season (a 3-1 victory at Cedar Rapids Jefferson on April 24). The defensive side of the field has seen the most in-season improvement. After allowing 24 goals in their first six games, the Women of Troy have yielded 22 in their last 10.
“I think we’ve been pretty positive with each other,” junior defender Marnie Vonderhaar said. “Even though we’ve been losing, we’re still motivated to keep working hard in practice and keep pushing each other to be better.”
The arrival of the postseason brings a fresh start for all teams. For West, another opportunity against its crosstown rival Iowa City High – which routed the Women of Troy, 4-0, on April 20 – provides significant motivation.
“We’re ready to redeem ourselves,” sophomore forward Pauline Kihura said. “That’s all I’ve been ready for.”
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