DES MOINES — At 5-foot-3, senior goalkeeper Haley Nelson epitomizes Sioux City Heelan's attitude on the soccer field.
What she lacks in physical tools, she compensates with heart, grit and passion.
The second-rated Crusaders were much more competitive this year, but No. 1 Davenport Assumption's enormous speed was too much, as the Knights won their third straight Class 1-A state soccer title with a 2-0 victory Saturday at Cownie Soccer Park.
A year ago, Assumption beat Heelan 4-0 in the finals.
“We did all that we could,” Nelson said as her eyes welled with tears. “We gave it 100 percent from the start to the finish. The only thing I would change about that game was coming out with the win.”
The Assumption girls have been doing nothing but winning lately. Saturday's triumph finished off the third state title for the Knights (19-1) in the last 100 days. Assumption won the 3-A basketball crown in March and the 3-A track title last month. Junior Maddie Irmen, who scored one goal Saturday and assisted the other, was a mainstay on all three teams.
“We're kind of always on the go, but I think once we got the basketball championship, we were like, 'Oh, now we want to go get some more,'” Irmen said.
Heelan survived the first 20 minutes without allowing a score, as Nelson was peppered with shots. But in the 22nd minute, Irmen found junior Rose Ripslinger open in the box, and the Iowa recruit punched in the opening score of the game.
The game's key sequence came in the 34th minute. Heelan sophomore Tristan Beaulieu put an outstanding cross in front of the net. Streaking in from the left side, sophomore Rachel Vondrak got her foot on the ball but couldn't finish it off.
Keeper Sydney Lunardi's long punt eventually found its way to Irmen, who maneuvered into a one-on-one situation with Nelson from short range. She scored for a 2-0 lead.
“We haven't played a team this fast, ever,” Nelson said. “There aren't just three fast girls, the whole team is fast.”
With its speed edge, Assumption manufactured more scoring chances in the second half, but neither squad found the net.
Heelan coach Shawn Mansfield said he couldn't have asked for more from his club.
“I thought we gave it all we had,” he said. “We put it all on the field and left it on the field. We can't be ashamed or disappointed with that. A couple things didn't go our way. We had a few opportunities that we didn't capitalize on, but I thought we played them pretty well.”
Nelson, Heelan's keeper, joined junior teammates Sam Tymkowicz and Amber Lingle on the all-tournament team.
Nelson will continue her career at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas, which is transitioning to Division I next year. She was a four-year starter at keeper, but didn't want to stay there after her freshman year. She credited assistant Lawrence Jensen, the goalie coach, for sticking with her.
“He's been with me from day one,” she said. “He pushes me every day in practice — so does the rest of the team — and I honestly don't think that we would have made it to this game if it weren't for him to push me to continue to be a goalie.”
Jensen said the credit goes to Nelson for making herself into a good keeper.
“It's been fun,” he said. “She works hard. She puts in tons of effort outside of practice. She really has a desire to do well and I'm pretty proud of her.”
The Crusaders graduate four other seniors: Taylor Koolstra, Brooke Herbst, Karissa Smith and Aly Miller.
Koolstra, a Minnesota State soccer recruit, has been a part of 11 state-tournament teams in volleyball, basketball and soccer.
“It's just been a great experience for me,” she said.
Joining the Heelan trio on the all-tournament team were Riley Behan, Danielle Moore, Irmen and captain Ripslinger of Assumption; sisters Jessica and Arika Wooldridge of Center Point-Urbana; and Danille Thomsen and Elli Cassabaum of Nevada.
Sioux City Heelan (17-1) ........................... 0 0—0
Davenport Assumption (19-1) ........................... 2 0—2
Goals: DA, Rose Ripslinger, Maddie Irman.
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