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‘This is soccer’: Iowa’s last-second save hands Iowa State first loss of season

Matteo Bender
The Iowa Hawkeyes and Iowa State Cyclones battle in front of the net in Iowa’s 2-1 win over the Cyclones on Aug. 24.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Capitalizing on big opportunities would be the theme of Iowa’s 2-1 win over Iowa State in the Cy-Hawk matchup Thursday.

Although it appeared to be all Iowa all night, Iowa State made a last-second surge to get the Hawkeyes sweating. However, when the dust settled, it was Iowa’s offensive presence and defensive prowess that kept the Cyclones from a back-to-back win in the Cy-Hawk series.

The Hawkeyes put on the pressure early, keeping possession of the ball for the majority of the first few minutes of the meeting. The Cyclones expected Iowa to be direct off the jump, so the defense kept a lid on any big plays from developing.

“They’re gonna knock the ball down your throat and run over everything, and I’m not sure it’s as pretty as we’d like soccer to look, but who cares if it’s effective,” Iowa State head coach Matt Fannon said.

After some scares near the net, the Cyclones took advantage of good field position from fouls to make multiple attacks. However, Iowa’s lockdown defense was too much for the Cyclones to capitalize off of their opportunities.

Just after 10 minutes of play, the Hawkeyes broke past the half-field line looking to make something happen on offense. As Cyclone defenders rushed in to put on the pressure, a Hawkeye attack put a ball through into the goalie’s box.

Shae Doherty fielded the pass and put up a shot immediately. Iowa State goalkeeper Avery Gillahan, who recently earned Big 12 Freshman of the Week honors, jumped in to stuff the ball just outside the net and secure the save, effectively putting out Iowa’s offensive fire.

However, that save wasn’t enough to shut down Iowa, as the pressure was still on. The momentum of the shot attempt caused the Hawkeyes to keep the ball past midfield and keep putting plays together.

“Unfortunately, in games that are as intense as this, those details become everything,” Fannon said.

Just minutes later, with the Hawkeyes still applying pressure, they got another chance for a big play with a corner kick. As the ball soared in, Iowa State defenders swarmed around the ball. 

Even with the added numbers, the Hawkeyes took possession of the ball just feet from the goal. However, the stout Iowa State defense put the pressure on yet again to force a shot well above the net and take control.

Iowa State’s first shot of the match came over 20 minutes into the match with a deep shot from Salomé Prat. The shot, however, was right to Iowa’s goalkeeper.

With time running down in the first half, shots started falling. Iowa State broke through the defense and took a shot on goal that simmered out enough for Iowa’s goalkeeper Macy Enneking to make a comfortable grab.

Just after that Iowa put on the pressure. The Hawkeyes made another break down the pitch and put up a shot just over the net. From that point on, it was all Iowa.

With under 15 minutes in the half, opportunities started rolling in for Iowa. The Hawkeyes were living in the goalkeeper’s box.

At the 11-minute mark, Kenzie Roling fielded a through-ball just outside the net. Roling made a move on Iowa State’s defender and fired in a shot on the lower-left side of the net just past Gillahan. Iowa would take a 1-0 lead with time running out in the first half.

By the half, Iowa was outshooting Iowa State 5-2. Iowa’s offensive pressure was enough that 67% of Iowa State’s possessions were on its half of the field.

Iowa started the second half the same as the first. Pressure came early, and Iowa capitalized on every opportunity it got.

Just minutes into the half, Elle Otto took another shot on goal, but Gillahan was fast enough to get in front of the ball. Gillahan couldn’t get her hands on it, and Otto took control of the ball again. 

Otto took yet another shot, this time just out of reach of Gillahan, finding the right side of the net. The Hawkeyes put together a 2-0 lead early in the second half.

“You put enough balls in the danger area, you create enough havoc, you’re gonna get a couple of goals,” Fannon said. “They obviously did that tonight.”

Ten minutes into the half, Iowa State got its much-needed big play on offense. Mira Emma punched a through ball up into the box to Alex Campana. 

Campana caught the ball and made a move to pass the defender standing in her way. With just Enneking between Campana and a goal, a shot came into the left side of the net. Enneking made a diving save on the ball to cut off Iowa State’s hopes of building momentum.

On the defensive side of the ball, Gillahan was doing everything she could to keep balls out of the net, but shots just kept coming. Gillahan had three saves on the day, but Iowa outshot Iowa State 17-9.

“She did a really good job in goal, and there were a couple of big moments that she did exactly what we want her to do,” Fannon said.

With just over 20 minutes left in the match, corner kick opportunities started rolling in for Iowa. The Hawkeyes got back-to-back corner kicks into the box and shots on goal, but nothing connected.

After a few hiccups early on, Iowa State’s defense locked down late to stop the bleeding. That defense was much needed with Iowa living on Iowa State’s side of the field.

With just 15 minutes left, Iowa State got its first corner kick attempt of the match. Miscommunication ended up causing the kick to go over a group of the Cyclones and fall into a sea of Hawks. Another opportunity to come back, gone.

The Cyclones didn’t lose their spirit. They knew coming into the match that they had to be resilient if they wanted to win.

“We’ve worked so hard on that resilience piece and understanding that, you know what, things might not go your way. What are you gonna do? Are you gonna sulk about it? Are you gonna make complaints? Or are you gonna go get on about it?” Fannon said.

Iowa State started heating up late in the match, but with just over 10 minutes left, it was too little too late. Campana put up a couple of shots near the net but couldn’t connect.

With just eight minutes left in the match, the Cyclones started speeding up the match. Campana was fouled just outside the box on an Iowa State offensive attack.

The Cyclones made the most of the opportunity. Olivia Edwards found Lauren Hernandez in front of the goal. The numbers were on Iowa State’s side, and it was too much for Enneking to overcome.

Iowa State scored to bring the match closer to even. Iowa still had a 2-1 lead, but Hernandez’s goal was the first that Iowa allowed all season.

“The message midway through the second half at the water break was ‘Go get a goal and it will change everything,’” Fannon said. “And it did. The problem was, it was only the last quarter of the game that we really started imposing ourselves on the game.”

Momentum was in Iowa State’s favor. With five minutes left, the Cyclones were looking for a tie, not a loss.

Iowa State kept up the newfound pressure late in the match, but Iowa’s lockdown defense was back in full force. 

The Cyclones made one last-ditch effort in the final seconds of the match. With time counting down, the Cyclones put a through ball in front of the net, but Enneking locked down when it mattered most. 

“[It was] a really close game that could have gone either way at the end, but this is soccer,” Fannon said.

The last-second save kept the Hawkeyes on top 2-1. Iowa came out on top to secure the first win of the Cy-Hawk series.

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    (Actual) football supporter | Aug 25, 2023 at 8:14 am

    It’s called football.