While Iowa high school baseball and softball athletes rejoice about having a 2020 season, there are those who are still mourning the spring season. The possible storylines are now gone with the wind, wiped away thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the time nears what would have been the state soccer tournaments, players, coaches, and fans can only look back and imagine. That includes on the soccer pitch where the ADM girls soccer team was set to take things to new heights, especially following the 2019 campaign. Last season was full of positives for the Tiger girls as they breezed their way to a state tournament appearance and did so as the top seed in the Class 2A tournament. It was a year primed for a championship run for the Tigers, something that adds to the sting of a lost season.
“The thing is I felt we could have gone really far this year and hopefully make it back to state,” said head coach Kelsey Dolder. “This was a very special group with a lot of skill and experience on their side.”
That experience and skill helped the Tigers to capture the programs’ sixth-ever state tournament appearance and first time as a number one seed. That same group helped continue the Tigers’ historic run of Raccoon River Conference titles. ADM had the talent and experience in play for a potential seventh-straight conference crown but unfortunately, that too vanished with the lost season. Adding even more fuel to the fire, the popularity of soccer at ADM High School grew, even more, presenting coach Dolder with an unprecedented situation.
“We had record numbers at open gyms and with the number of freshmen that were coming out, we were on the brink of making three teams this season which we haven’t had in years,” Dolder said.
Following the teams exit from the state tournament last season, the thought that dominated the minds of the players was a repeat trip back to Cownie Soccer Complex.
“It’s really frustrating because we felt we had it in us to make it back again this year,” said senior soccer star Josi Lonneman. “I and the rest of the team knew we could make it back and that was a big goal for us this year.”
By many accounts, the Tigers were set to be a dangerous team across the Class 2A landscape. They seemingly had a lot in place but perhaps the best piece in their arsenal didn’t involve the physical skill at all.
“We are really close with each other,” said senior multi-sport star Delaney Bertman. “We work really well together which helped us out a lot on the field. Our team chemistry was amazing and it was one of the best parts of this team.”
Team chemistry from year to year, like everything else, can change but with just one senior departing from the 2019 ADM roster, life on the soccer pitch was not looking very different for 2020. That would have meant that everyone from the starting lineup last season (aside from an injured Abby Gonzales) would have returned. Along with a few other aspects, that would have gone a long way towards another strong start for ADM girls soccer.
“We would have our starting lineup back from last season,” Dolder said. “Previously we had a bunch of girls out for track as well but this year they decided to focus on just soccer and that would have helped us even more early on.”
Once again, just the thought of what could have been can be a tough pill to swallow. Even through sharing athletes last year, the Tigers suffered just one loss. A lot of those efforts were spearheaded by the current senior class.
“I actually started coaching this senior class when they were in seventh grade out for middle school basketball so I’ve been with these ladies for the past five years,” began Dolder. “It’s been amazing to watch these ladies grow. They have come such a long way and they are such a special group. All of these seniors I would have had now were in that middle school basketball team five years ago. I’m thankful for the year that we had last year with these ladies. They all stepped up and made this team so successful last year.”
From this past season, two soccer athletes in Lonneman and Delaney Barton have been granted to opportunity to play on the collegiate soccer pitch. Despite the lack of a senior high school season, both Barton and Lonneman will get the chance to reunite with former ADM star Sydney Bertman.
“It’s unfortunate but we don’t let all of this get to us,” said Lonneman.