ANKENY - There's a reason top-ranked Ankeny has allowed only one goal all season.
And on Monday it had little to do with having an all-state keeper in the net.
Overworked by the Hawkettes' deft dribbling, precise passing and superior speed, the Marshalltown girls soccer team could rarely find the ball as Ankeny played keep away en route to a 4-0 win in the Class 3A Region 1 final.
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
Marshalltown goalkeeper Amanda Hughes, left, makes one of her 13 saves off a header attempt from Ankeny’s Jordyn Rittman (15) as the Bobcats’ Taylor Vaudt (14) and Erin Woltjer (6) close in. The top-ranked Hawkettes scored three times in the second half to pull away for a 4-0 Class 3A Region 1 final victory in Ankeny Monday. Marshalltown closed the season with a 10-8 record.
"They possess the ball really well, they pass the ball around and they make you chase them to wear you down," MHS coach Allie Osmundson said of the Hawkettes.
"As soon as they wear you down, they play the ball in and score goals. That's their whole game - they pass the ball around and keep possession of the ball."
Ankeny used that strategy to great effect, dominating time of possession throughout the match and limiting the Bobcats' touches as the visitors took just one shot on goal.
Ankeny 4, Marshalltown 0
ANK - Kelsey Laughman, 19:15
ANK - Jordyn Rittman, 42:10
ANK - Sarah Brandt, 44:58
ANK - Sirina Reed, 59:17
Goalkeepers - MHS: Amanda Hughes (17 shots on goal-13 saves); ANK: Nikkie Inskeep (1-1).
Shots - MHS 1, ANK 32.
Shots on goal - MHS 1, ANK 17.
Corner kicks - MHS 2, ANK 10.
The Hawkettes (19-0), ranked No. 2 nationally in Elite Soccer Report's Top 50, played up to their high billing, outfiring the Bobcats in shots (32-1), shots on goal (17-1) and corner kicks (10-2), while wearing down Marshalltown with a methodical, yet relentless attack.
Amanda Hughes kept Marshalltown (10-8) within reach with 13 saves including several key stops in the first half, though with as few chances the Bobcats had with the ball - one goal proved to be more than enough for Ankeny.
Kelsey Laughman put the defending runners-up in front by redirecting a deflection into the net in the 19th minute. The Hawkettes threatened on several more occasions in the half though Hughes kept the deficit at one.
Jordyn Rittman's header glanced off the right post in the 22nd minute, while Hughes made a play on three consecutive corner kicks with just over 10 minutes left in the half.
"Amanda had some great saves, especially in the first half," Osmundson said.
"She's come so far from last season and even the beginning of this season."
The Bobcats thwarted a few more scoring chances by drawing the Hawkettes offside five times in the opening frame - helping offset Ankeny's fleet forwards on the outside.
"We had to anticipate when they were going to do through balls so we could get back because they were so fast," said Bobcat freshman Ellyn Boland, who had the Bobcats' lone shot on goal - a booming attempt from the right side that was barely snuffed out by a diving Nikkie Inskeep.
Ankeny's possession oriented approach really broke through after intermission as putback shots from Jordyn Rittman in the 42nd minute and Sarah Brandt in the 44th stretched the lead to 3-0. Rittman rebounded a bad clearance that came right back toward her in the middle of the penalty box, while Hughes recollected her own shot after Hughes got a hand on the first one.
Sirina Reed tacked on one more score in the 59th, stretching the lead and Ankeny's goal differential to 80-1 on the season.
Though the season came to an end, the Bobcats were well aware of the task they were up against - and saw the type of team they'd like to become next year.
"This was a tough game to lose, but at the same time I think it's good for the girls coming back because they know they've seen the best in the state," Osmundson said.
"I hope the ones coming back remember how (Ankeny) played and use that in the offseason to keep improving. This is the style we want to play."
More than tripling their win total from a year ago, the Bobcats lose just five players - and only one from Monday's starting lineup.
"I think they have great potential," said MHS senior Megan Major, who credited the team's improved confidence and indoor play through the winter in sparking their seven-game turnaround from 2012.
"If they have the same mindset coming back, they won't be stopped by many teams."
While Hughes made several great stops in the season finale, she's already looking forward to what next year brings.
"We're going to be even better next year," Hughes said.
"We have a lot of juniors coming back as seniors and we're looking forward to it."
The Hawkettes advance to the Iowa Girls State Soccer Tournament to face Iowa City High (11-7) in the first round Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at James W. Cownie Soccer Park in Des Moines.
The Bobcats more than tripled their win total from 2012, when they finished 3-15. ... Five of the Bobcats' eight losses came by one goal and five were against ranked teams. ... Marshalltown returns 16 members from its roster, as seniors Megan Major, Danielle Ramsey-Smith, Tasia King, Lauren March and Thalia Chavarria wrapped up their prep careers. ... Ankeny owns wins over fellow ESR top-50 squads No. 38 Plainfield North (Ill.) and No. 31 St. Charles North (Ill.). ... Ankeny is making it's fifth straight state tournament appearance and has reached the semifinals each year while winning a state title in 2011 and claiming runner-up last year. Marshalltown's lone state berth came in 2008.