The Waukee girls’ soccer team on June 6 blanked Linn-Mar to reach its third consecutive state semifinal.
But for the second year in a row, Ankeny awaited the Warriors in the semifinal round. And for the second year in a row, the Hawks escaped with a 2-1 victory on June 7.
"I told them they have nothing to hang their heads about," Waukee coach Tony Gabriel said of the semifinal defeat at Cownie Soccer Complex that ended the Warriors’ season at 16-5. "They played a fantastic game and had a very successful season. This heartache will soon pass, and that is when they’ll be able to reflect on everything they’ve accomplished this season."
Jessica Duff tied the game at 1 in the 73rd minute, taking a pass from Anna Kollmorgen and drilling a shot on goal that escaped the grasp of goalkeeper Nikkie Inskeep and jumped into the goal.
The rally to tie the match against steep odds has been a constant all season, Gabriel said.
"It shows how much character they have as a team," he said. "In all five losses this season, this team has never been out of the game. They have fought until the final whistle all year."
Ankeny, which had taken a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute, answered with the game winner just minutes after Duff’s equalizer when Kelsey Yarrow scored in the 78th minute.
Jacki Kunze had seven saves in goal for Waukee, while Duff, Ellie Bunz and Taylor Woods all had two shots apiece.
Waukee was aiming for its first championship match appearance since 2011. Instead, the Hawks went on to win their second title in three years.
The Warriors dominated in nearly every facet of a 3-0 victory over Linn-Mar the day before. Hannah McDevitt got Waukee on the board just 8 minutes into the match. After taking a pass from Kollmorgen, she got an open look and drilled a 25-yard strike into the upper left corner of the goal.
"It gave us momentum and gave us confidence," McDevitt said. "From there, we just kept improving throughout the game."
The quick strike helped Waukee pressure Linn-Mar.
"Linn-Mar’s a good team and we knew we had to put pressure on them in order to win this game and slip some goals in early, so we were fortunate to do that," Gabriel said.
Bunz slipped a penalty kick past goalkeeper Rylie Frese with 11:57 left in the first half, and Kollmorgen added the team’s third goal midway through the second on a long, hard strike from near midfield.
Kunze made three saves and Waukee held an 11-3 advantage in shots on goal, including four by McDevitt.
"It was definitely not something we expected, but something that is possible with our squad," Gabriel said of the decisive margin of victory over the Lions, who had entered with a 15-3 mark. "We came here with the expectation that we were going to play our style of soccer, and we know that we can play some of the best soccer in the state if we stick to it."
Gabriel credited the team’s six seniors — Bunz, Duff, Woods, Monica Grewell, Rachel Muse and Hannah Cook — with uniting the team over the course of a season that saw the team win seven of its final eight games entering the match with Ankeny.
"I told these six seniors at the beginning of the season that it was their team," Gabriel said. "They accepted the challenge of taking everyone under their wings and formed a very close group of girls."