DES MOINES — Chalk it up to a learning experience, albeit a painful one.
The Linn-Mar girls’ soccer team got a taste of the state tournament for the first time in three years on Thursday, and with a roster dominated by freshmen and sophomores, there is a good chance that these young Lions will return to roar again at state.
“To be able to come here and experience something like this, it’s going to be huge,” third-year Linn-Mar Coach Marco de Leon said after the seventh-seeded Lions were dispatched by No. 2 Ankeny, 5-1, in a Class 3A state quarterfinal Thursday at Cownie Soccer Complex. “They’re going to come back hungry for next year and I can tell you right now that a lot of girls are already looking forward to next year. This is just like when you think of sharks tasting blood. They taste it and I can tell you they’re going to want more next year.”
Linn-Mar was tasked with slowing the highest-scoring offense in 3A. With five goals against the Lions, Ankeny has broken the single-season school record with 102 goals. The Hawks are in the state tournament for the ninth time in 10 seasons and have won state titles in 2011, 2013 and 2015.
“I think it is experience,” Ankeny Coach Dan Bertsch said. “And that is no disrespect to (Linn-Mar). Those guys are going to be back. They’re a strong, young, technical team. They have a lot of potential. We were once there ourselves.”
Ankeny broke the scoreless tie in the 11th minute when senior Alexis Legg scored her 34th goal of the season — which ranks third in the state across all classes — with a header off an assist from senior Morgan Bennett.
“I saw that the forward was ahead of me,” Legg said. “I created space and dropped off.”
After Linn-Mar had a frenetic offensive exchange over the final four minutes of the first half that failed to produce a score, Ankeny senior Taylor Peterson delivered a dagger with a goal just before the halftime horn for a 2-0 lead.
“It was momentum changing,” de Leon said. “But our girls never let up.”
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Linn-Mar had more offensive chances throughout the second half, but managed just one goal from freshman Kaitlyn Brunson in the 63rd minute that cut its deficit to 3-1.
Junior Malerie Rohweder scored twice in the final nine minutes for Ankeny (18-2), winners of 12 of 13 games.
The Hawks will play a state semifinal Friday at 4:15 against third-seeded West Des Moines Valley (17-2).
The Lions end their season at 14-6.
CLASS 3A STATE QUARTERFINAL
No. 2 Ankeny 5, No. 7 Linn-Mar 1
Goals — LM: Kaitlyn Brunson 1 (2); ANK: Alexis Legg 1 (34), Taylor Peterson 1 (3), Saige Adamson 1 (2), Malerie Rohweder 2 (6).
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