Following Back-to-back 12-win Seasons the City High Girls Soccer Team is Seeking to Take the Next Step

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Ryan Murken

Your Prep Sports

IOWA CITY – Being closes doesn’t account for a whole lot in a sport like soccer.

As forward with the responsibility of scoring goals Sydney DePrenger knows that as well as anyone.

Coming close to a goal happens relatively often, actually scoring is rare that comes with the territory for experienced players like DePrenger.

As the lone four-year varsity starter on a City High team that has lost three consecutive regional final matches DePrenger knows better than most the disappointment of being close.

“We’ve been close every year, the last two years we were really close,” DePrenger said. “This year with this team we want to take that next step. We’ve lost a lot of good players but if everyone plays their best and puts forth great effort it will be good.”

DePrenger is right, City High has been close to a state tournament trip in each of its three seasons under head coach Michael Prunty.

City High has double digit wins in all three seasons with Prunty at the helm, including identical 12-6 marks the past two springs.

All three of those seasons have ended with regional final loss, the final two 1-0 decisions to an eventual state semifinalist and state runner-up.

Last year it was a 1-0 loss to eventual runner-up West Des Moines Valley that stopped the Little Hawks short of their first state appearance since 2013.

“We’ve faced the top one or two teams every year in our regional finals and when I look at how we played against them and how other teams play at the state tournament I am confident that we have been in the top eight or the top 10 every year,” Prunty said. “Now it’s just how do we prepare through the regular season to not put ourselves in postseason situation like that.”

City High believes this season it has a team capable of putting itself in a position to do more than get close to state.

The Little Hawks have holes to fill, most notably the departure of all-state center back Grace Brown and leading scorer Sydney Schroder.

However, City High also has returning talent in the form of Mississippi Valley Conference divisional keeper of the year Naomi Meurice, Iowa commit Sam Schroder and DePrenger who headline a list of seven returning starters.

“We lost two really important players but we have a lot of girls working really hard and a lot of girls that have gotten a lot better from when they started to now,” Schroder said. “This year our main focus is playing smart. We need to make sure that everyone is on the same page and no one is trying to do it all themselves.”

The loss of Brown is a big one for a City High backline that allowed more than one goal just three times a year ago but is softened somewhat by the return of Meurice, a three-year starter coming off a strong junior season.

Meurice made 81 saves and helped City High post shutouts in half of its matches a year ago.

“For us returning letterwinners (being close) is definitely on our minds in and out of the season,” Meurice said. “We are close, we have been close the past two years and that little extra effort that little extra practice every day that is maybe going to bring us forward.”

DePrenger and Schroder will be looked to spark a City High attack that lost its top three goal scorers.

The duo combined for eight goals and eight assists last season.

Junior forward Madeline Pugh (6 goals) also returns with starting experience.   

“We’ve always had a really good core group of girls playing together and since we’ve had the core group of girls its easier for us to stay together as a group and we build off of each other,” DePrenger said. “I think having that core group of girls that are experienced helps a lot.”

The Little Hawks have experienced players but many are working in to new or expanded roles this season.

Prunty expects an early learning curve that hopefully turns into more late season success that this year goes one step further.

“We are trying to change our training environment so that we are not always wanting at the end of the season,” Prunty said. “We are preparing to be able to take that next step and asking more of the girls is part of it. I think we have the ability in our conference to do well it’s just how we develop in the season and how everyone else does.”