Takeaways: Soccer’s final matches highlighted by strong defense

Iowa State freshman Tyra Shand kicks the ball in the 2021 Big 12 Women’s Soccer Championship against TCU on Oct. 31. TCU won the game on penalty kicks.

Adarsh Tamma

AMES — It was never going to be an easy path for the Iowa State soccer team, as the 2021 season went the full distance, but ended in a tough defeat.

The Cyclones’ Big 12 Tournament campaign ended at the first hurdle on Sunday, as they fell to No. 8 TCU 3-2 on penalty kicks. With the shootout knotted up at 2-2, Freshman Meghan Carl and Senior Taylor Bee both missed their chances from the spot, leading to TCU Senior Brandi Peterson sealing her team’s win by converting from 12 yards out.

Despite the final result not going in their favor, Iowa State’s final two matches against the Horned Frogs and Kansas State were marked by a back line defense that refused to let anything get past them.

Defensive line shines

Before they could even have a chance of playing TCU in the Big 12 Tournament, the Cyclones’ postseason hopes were to be determined by the final match of the regular season. Traveling to Kansas State on Thursday, Iowa State had to beat the Wildcats in Manhattan, Kansas, while also having Texas defeat Kansas in Austin, Texas, in order to grab the eighth and final seed.

The Cyclones did just that, as Freshman Anna Lindgren scored her second goal of the season in the 53rd minute, while their defense came up big when it mattered the most by recording their fifth shutout of the season.

In 200 combined minutes of play against the Wildcats and Horned Frogs, Iowa State’s defense faced a total of 32 shots, with 10 being on-target.

The two-game shutout was the longest span of time in which the Cyclones didn’t concede for the entire season, as they came into the match against the Wildcats having allowed an average of 1.47 goals per game in their last 15 games before the regular season finale.

Seniors McKenna Schultz, Brooke Miller, Bee and Freshman Tyra Shand formed the starting back four in Iowa State’s last two matches. Schultz set a program record against Kansas State by recording her 81st career appearance as a Cyclone and played a full 200 minutes against KSU and TCU.

Bee also stayed on the field for the entirety of both matches, and has been one of the lynchpins for the Cyclones throughout the season. In her final season for Iowa State, the Fort Collins, Colo. native played all but 12 minutes through the team’s 17 matches.

Against TCU, the Cyclone defense had an even tougher matchup, as the Horned Frogs had previously dismantled them 3-0 in Ames on Oct. 17. Nationally, they rank among the best in assists, corner kicks and shots per match.

In the Big 12 Tournament however, the Cyclone defense rose to the occasion and didn’t allow TCU to score in a match for the first time since Sept. 16, when the Horned Frogs fell to No. 9 Pepperdine 1-0.

The Cyclone back line saw 19 shots from their opponents’ offense, including five on-target, but managed to secure a draw in regulation for the first time this season. The Horned Frogs kept Iowa State’s defense busy with 11 corner kicks and maintaining 64% of the possession.

Offense not able to create

Outside of Lindgren’s goal against the Wildcats, the Cyclone offense seemed to be kept quiet against in their final two matches. Iowa State combined for a total of 15 shots.

This lack of offense was especially evident against TCU, as the Horned Frogs wouldn’t let Iowa State get an inch by allowing just three shots. TCU goalkeeper Lauren Kellett earned her ninth shutout of the year with one save.

Once again, the Cyclones’ attack seemed to flow through their midfield, as Juniors Mira Emma and Claudia Najera led the team on shots with four and three respectively against Kansas State.

Those stats were reduced to one and zero respectively against TCU, as Emma struggled to find a decent look at goal. The Wheaton, Ill., native had averaged nearly two shots per match coming into the matchup against the Horned Frogs.

In the end, that lack of offense may have been the final piece missing from Iowa State’s performance against the Horned Frogs, as one goal in overtime would have automatically sent them into the next round.

The Cyclones finished the season with an overall record of 5-11-1, while TCU will play Texas Tech in the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday.