LA PORTE CITY — Union Community is in the Class 1A girls’ state soccer tournament for the first time in four years.
That is not to suggest the current Knights are lacking in state-tournament experience. Eleven players, including seven starters, remain from the 2017 bunch that finished second a class up in 2A.
“We’re pumped,” said Union senior forward Allie Carty, who will help the sixth-ranked Knights face No. 4 Gilbert in a 1A state quarterfinal at 11:15 a.m. Thursday at Cownie Soccer Park in Des Moines. “When we left that, we were like, ‘We want to come back.’ That is what our goal has been every year. We were unfortunate last year, but this year it may happen and we are excited to get down there.”
This will be the seventh state appearance in school history for Union (14-3), which is competing in 1A this season for the first time since 2015. The Knights were state runners-up in 1A in both 2010 and 2011 before the aforementioned 2A runner-up finish two years ago.
“We had a blast,” Union junior midfielder Riley Rosauer said of the 2017 state tournament. “It was the most fun weekend I have ever had in my own life. Just the thought of going back, I can’t wait. We are so excited.”
Carty, Rosauer and junior midfielder Lexi Wagner have formed a dynamic offensive trio this season. Carty ranks third in all of 1A with 34 goals this season. Rosauer ranks first across all classes in assists with 23, while Wagner’s 17 assists has her tied for fifth in the state regardless of class.
“Those three kind of set us on the path,” fifth-year Union Coach Hunter Zempel said. “All three of them just do a fantastic job of combining with each other. It is something we work on every day. … This is their third year playing together, so they know each other well. After all this experience, they are just letting their talents show out. All three of them have been absolutely vital to our team success.”
Even with their considerable chemistry, it was the sixth match of the season before the offense was confidently putting the ball away and the players were fully realizing their offensive potential. That day, Carty and Rosauer each recorded hat tricks in a 6-0 home win over previously-unbeaten Gladbrook-Reinbeck, which had defeated the Knights the previous season.
“We played so well,” Rosauer said. “We were like, ‘Wow, we know what we’re doing this year.’ That game brought a lot of confidence to our team.”
The Union back line is also replete with experience. Four-year starters Megan Carty and Karly Jans control the middle, while three-year starter Tori Hadacheck and sophomore Sunshine Gray patrol the outside in front of junior goalkeeper Jasmyn Bush, a three-year starter who has surrendered just 10 goals all season.
“This team has a very strong bond together,” Bush said. “We all know each other’s playing abilities, so we are all very comfortable with each other. We know the responsibilities of each other. I think we all will do really well together.”
The Knights are 4-2 all-time in state-quarterfinal matches. Gilbert (18-0) is the only undefeated team left in the state.
“We just have to be confident in what we are doing,” Rosauer said. “We can’t let the nerves get in our heads. … Just letting our nerves go and being confident in what we are doing, having faith in each other, will get us through the game.”
Another 1A quarterfinal pits No. 3 Center Point-Urbana (16-2) against seventh-ranked Nevada (14-4) at 11:45. In 2A, No. 5 Cedar Rapids Xavier (14-4) plays fourth-ranked Spencer (19-1) at 1:45, while Linn-Mar (18-1) ranked third in 3A, will open up with No. 6 Ankeny (15-4) at 4:45.
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