Cyclones end nightmare season with road win, look to next year

Iowa State soccer team members celebrate after their first goal during their Big 12 home opener versus Kansas on Sept. 29.

Noah Rohlfing

It was a party atmosphere at the K-State Athletic Complex on Friday night. 

There were Senior Day ceremonies, a student section with a drum and chants (well-intentioned but sang off-key), and a faithful Iowa State contingent as well. It was not the most welcoming road environment.

Yet the Cyclones seemed to thrive on it.

Dancing around before kickoff, pressing the Wildcat back line, and picking up a first road win of the season, the Cyclones enjoyed themselves and spoiled the WIldcats’ Senior Day celebration with a 2-1 victory in a wild match.  

It was a night when the Cyclones showed what has ultimately plagued them all season, apart from injuries: the inability to string together 90 minutes of consistent play.

For 45 minutes, though, Iowa State looked like a team filled with confidence. Passes were crisp, incisive runs were being made off the ball, and their reward was a 40th-minute goal from junior midfielder Taylor Wagner. 

Coach Tony Minatta said that it was something the Cyclones had been working on.

“As we’ve built this group in the last two weeks, we’ve been able to get them more cohesive,” Minatta said. “Tonight was a good night to go forward.”

Wagner made a mazy run through the midfield before firing away from 28 yards, and Wildcats senior goalkeeper Miranda Larkin couldn’t keep it from sliding through her arms and in. 

Heading into halftime, the teams were tied at 10 shots apiece. The Wildcats were the team that came out firing in the second half, though. 

It’s become a common occurrence for the Cyclones to come out sluggish to start the second 45 and Friday night’s game was no exception. They were pinned in by a resurgent Wildcats attack, and it culminated in a penalty being awarded to Kansas State for handball in the box. 

Minatta was left frustrated by second-half lulls all season and tonight was no exception. 

“We’re coming out of half and we’re up 1-0, it’s almost like, ‘OK, we’re good,’” Minatta said. “You’re never good. It’s Big 12 soccer, everybody’s good, everybody’s athletic, everybody wants the win.”

Freshman midfielder Brookelynn Entz scored the spot kick, and at 1-1, the Cyclones were facing another disappointing lost lead.

This time, though, something seemed different. 

The Cyclones were dominant for a 15 minute stretch immediately following the Kansas State goal, attacking with intent and searching for a winner. 

Then, in the 73rd minute, the Cyclones got something that had eluded them all season: A break. 

A penalty was awarded when freshman midfielder Abigail Harbin was fouled by a Kansas State player just inside the box.

Junior midfielder Emily Steil, who had picked up a slight knock just before halftime, came off the bench and dispatched the penalty kick into the top right corner. Iowa State held on comfortably for the final 17 minutes.

The win means the Cyclones will finish the season with a record of 3-12-3 and in ninth place in the Big 12. 

The Cyclones ended up with 19 shots, six of them on target. Kansas State had five shots on target from 21 total attempts. 

With this win, the Cyclones can now look forward to next season, with a young roster that gained lots of learning experience this year and loses only three seniors. 

Minatta was happy to head into spring soccer with a bit of momentum.

“Not a lot of teams can say they ended their season with a win,” Minatta said. “This group will basically be the group that plays for us next year.”

“It makes it exciting to know that we’re able to go forward having played some really good soccer, and all of those players are coming back.”