Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Anyone who has experienced the tension of a pressure-packed match like a regional final knows the importance of an early goal.
No one knew exactly how important the goal from Regina senior Lauren Gaarde just two minutes into Monday’s Class 1A, Region 7 final would turn out to be.
The goal by Gaarde in the 2nd minute turned into the game-winner as 1A eighth-ranked Regina held on for a 1-0 win over Cedar Valley Christian/Alburnett (14-5) at Regal Field.
“That was huge and like we found out it turned out to be even huger than we thought,” Regina coach Ann Larew said of Gaarde’s early goal. “I thought after that we would get more opportunities and the opportunities just didn’t fall and thankfully she took advantage of that opportunity.”
Gaarde chipped in a loose ball in front of the goal following an Anna Ziniel corner kick just 81 seconds into the match for her team-best 15th of the season.
The goal by Gaarde sent Regina (10-7) to the state tournament for the seventh consecutive season where the Regals will face third-ranked Nevada (15-4) at 11:45 a.m. on Thursday at Cownie Soccer Complex in Des Moines.
“We scored pretty early and after that I think the emotions got the best of us,” Gaarde said. “I’m proud of everyone because we stuck through it and got the job done.”
It looked like Regina was in for a rout when Gaarde found the net early.
Ziniel played a corner kick into the box and Gaarde had a touch on the ball and after a deflection found the ball at her feet again.
She calmly chipped it into the goal with her left foot to put Regina up 1-0 with 38:39 left in the opening half.
“Anna played a corner ball and I hit it first but then it bounced around and I just tapped it in with my left foot,” Gaarde said. “Surprisingly, I’ve scored a lot with my left foot. I don’t mean too but that’s just how it has happened.”
The rest of the match was filled with miss opportunities on offense and a strong defensive effort for Regina.
Regina had a pair of shots off the woodwork in the opening half and led 1-0 at halftime.
“I thought that offensively we were going to get a lot more looks and we were going to put things together and give it to them they came out with a lot of fire and a lot of enthusiasm and they made a game of it and good for them,” Larew said. “I thought that we kept our composure enough to battle back and get some looks of our own and some of those shots would have fallen in that would have taken off some of the pressure and made it a different game.”
Regina kept Cedar Valley Christian/Alburnett from mounting much of an attack in the opening half but did allow a dangerous opportunity early in the second.
Elisabeth Fields had a potential game-tying shot from just outside the box sail high in the 52nd minute.
“Our defense was pretty solid,” Regina senior keeper Megan Wick said. “They do a really great job so they take all my nerves away. Our defense is really good and I’m really confident in them.”
Cedar Valley Christian/Alburnett refused to go quietly, pushing forward over the final 15 minutes but failed to find the equalizer.
Wick stopped a free kick from outside the box and Regina kept any other shots from getting to the senior keeper while posting their seventh shutout of the season.
“When we get an early lead it just adds to my confidence because our defense is really good,” Wick said. “I don’t get nervous because of how good our defense is but when we have a lead I’m even more confident.”
The nine seniors on the Regina roster will end their career with a fourth consecutive state tournament trip.
Regina finished runner-up in Class 1A in 2016 before falling to Davenport Assumption 9-0 in a 1A quarterfinal last season.
“I feel very blessed,” Regina senior Greyson Dumont said. “We work hard and we earned it but it’s good to be a part of the tradition here.”