Your Prep Sports
DES MOINES – Regina controlled play for most of the first half for the second consecutive day at the state soccer tournament on Friday.
For the second day in a row the Regals still faced a 1-0 second-half deficit.
The difference was on Friday there was no late comeback for the Regals.
A day after scoring two goals in the final 23 minutes of regulation and overtime to edge third-ranked Nevada No. 8 Regina couldn’t cash in on some early scoring chances and fell to ninth-ranked Sioux City Heelan 1-0 in a Class 1A semifinal at Cownie Soccer Complex in Des Moines.
“The first half I thought we played really well, we played our game, we controlled possession we played just the way we wanted to play, we had some chances, they didn’t fall in,” Regina coach Ann Larew said. “I think we felt fairly confident that if we kept doing that they would fall in the second half and that just didn’t happen.”
Freshman Grace Mahoney scored the lone goal of the match in the 45th minute to send Heelan (12-7) back to the state title game for the first time since the Crusaders won the 1A crown in 2015.
Regina finished the season 11-8 while Heelan will face two-time defending state champion Davenport Assumption (17-2) in the 1A final at 10 a.m. on Saturday.
The Knights have outscored a pair of state tournament opponents by a combined score of 13-1 following a 5-1 semifinal win over No. 6 Center Point-Urbana on Friday.
“It’s going to take everything we have,” first-year Heelan coach Clark Charlestin said when asked what it would take to down Assumption. “Everything we have.”
Heelan need nearly everything it could muster to hold off Regina on Friday.
The Regals controlled play early getting a trio of shots at Heelan keeper Mary Fitzsimmons who came up with saves on each one.
Despite a decided Regina advantage in scoring chances and possession the score remained tied until Mahoney stepped onto a ball at the top of the box and rocketed a shot into the upper right-hand corner from 35 yards out.
“Overall our defense played great,” Larew said. “They did a great job but we had one moment where we didn’t step to it and that cost us.”
It was the second goal in as many days for Mahoney who didn’t start the season on the varsity squad and failed to score during the regular season.
“She was a late bloomer,” Charlestin said. “At the beginning of the season she was even on the varsity and as the season went on she stepped up every day and now here she is.”
Regina continued to push over the final 35 minutes but couldn’t crack a Heelan backline that posted its second shutout in as many days.
The Regals created opportunities, twice when senior Lauren Gaarde got loose between defenders but Heelan continually made plays inside the box to keep Regina from getting a shot.
“We’ve played from behind before, we’ve had teams make a great shot and we’ve been able to respond to it before,” Larew said. “That wasn’t a complete game-changer, I don’t think by any means after that did we think we were beaten. Clearly we kept trying and kept working and kept trying to put together our game and it just didn’t happen for us today.”
The loss ends brilliant careers for nine Regina seniors who helped the Regals reach the state tournament in each of their four seasons with the program.
Regina reached the 1A semifinal three times over the last four years finishing runner-up in 2016.
“Not only are they great soccer players, that is just secondary to what they are,” Larew said of the seniors. “They are great teammates, they are just great people who give of themselves on the soccer field and in the rest of their lives. They are great leaders. I’ sure the way that the ways they have worked hard and the things that they have been able to accomplish as a team are what’s going to go forward and make them the great people they are in the rest of their lives.