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Rebels run aground by Gilbert

No. 14 Grundy Center/Gladbrook-Reinbeck falls to state’s last unbeaten team

June 6, 2019
Ross Thede - T-R Sports Editor ( , Reinbeck Courier

GILBERT - The Rebels were waiting for lightning to strike.

The No. 14 Grundy Center/Gladbrook-Reinbeck girls soccer team managed just two shots on net and needed a jolt it never got in a 3-0 loss to No. 4 Gilbert in Monday's Class 1A Region 5 championship match.

The host Tigers (18-0) remained as the only undefeated team in Iowa as they qualified for this week's state tournament in Des Moines, leaning on the pillars of offense that have advanced them this far.

Article Photos

T-R PHOTO BY ROSS THEDE - Grundy Center/Gladbrook-Reinbeck sophomore Belen Ellenberger, left, battles for a 50-50 ball with Gilbert’s Hannah Thatcher (30) during Monday’s Class 1A Region 5 girls soccer final at Gilbert High School. The host Tigers won 3-0.

Iowa State University commit Eva Steckelberg and her freshman teammate Natalie Rudman combined to score all three goals as Gilbert got out front early and kept Grundy Center/Gladbrook-Reinbeck (13-6) at bay the rest of the way.

"We heard that their midfield runs wild through everything," said Rebel head coach Aaron Mara. "Their midfield holds that team together."

Gilbert's midsection prevented the Rebels from mounting much of a counterattack against the Tigers' 16 shots on goal, as GC/G-R senior keeper Carsen Hamann seemed to be under constant pressure. Especially in the first half, when the Tigers played with the wind at their backs after winning the coin flip.

Gilbert attempted 19 shots with 11 of them finding the frame before the break. The only one of those to get past Hamann was Steckelberg's blast from about 20 yards out that rode the jet stream into the back of the net.

The Tigers took a 1-0 lead on Steckelberg's blast just 5 minutes, 50 seconds into the match and never relinquished it.

Hamann came up with a handful of diving and leaping stops for the remainder, but it was a couple of low-liners that got past her in the second half.

The Rebels gained the wind advantage after halftime but Gilbert got the momentum with its second goal, as Rudman worked the give-and-go with Steckelberg and got the ball to slide through Hamann's hands as she slid to attempt the save.

Grundy Center/Gladbrook-Reinbeck's sails went flat when the Tigers finally made it 3-0 on a Steckelberg shot that slipped through Hamann's hands with 19:15 left in the match.

"I wouldn't call the [second goal] the backbreaker, but obviously the third one's pretty deflating at that point," said Mara. "It stings coming out of half and we give up that one five minutes in. We just didn't create opportunities like we needed to."

The Rebels didn't record an official shot on goal until sophomore Belen Ellenberger collected a lead pass up the right sideline and fired a stern shot into the wind. Her rolling right footer might have presented more of a challenge for Bulman on a calmer day, but the brisk southerly breeze that blew up a batch of rain for halftime helped lessen GC/G-R's first offensive attempt.

"We knew that their midfield was going to be their best part coming into this and it felt like they had more people on the field because they were just all over the place," said Rebel senior midfielder Madison McMartin. "The turf is different from playing on our regular field so the touches were a lot harder to get control of, so it was just hard to get the ball up to us and when we did, [Gilbert] came back and they were all over us right away."

The Rebels rented out the soccer facility at the Cedar Valley SportsPlex the day before going to Gilbert's first-rate facility for their second regional final in three seasons under Mara, but it wasn't enough to prepare the team for its third match of the season on the artificial surface. Especially when it got wet.

"We wanted to possess the ball and shoot it, their goalie was OK but at times she bobbled it," said Mara. "We knew if we were within 25 (yards) and had a step or two we just needed to put the ball in frame and we just didn't have the looks tonight."

The Rebels' best chances were generated by runs out of the defensive third by seniors Cora Saak and Rachel Scarf, or runs by Ellenberger or freshman Reece Gordan along the sidelines. Jacque Kuester had trouble manipulating the ball up the middle of the field to McMartin, limiting GC/G-R's options offensively.

"My hat's off to them, they played a good game and we just couldn't really control the ball," said Mara, "and two shots won't ever win you a game either."

Sydney Mathews, one of the Rebels' eight seniors, recorded the only shot on goal for her squad in the second half.

"This senior group is they've been together, they started with me two years ago when I stepped in," Mara said, stammering briefly. "This is a great group of girls. They'll do great things.

"They're the heart of this team, they really are. Obviously we have a few holes to fill but it's not over with this group. We're going to come back next year and battle and hopefully do some more damage."

Seven of GC/G-R's seniors were varsity regulars, and the eighth - Ingrid Schiom - saw playing time for the final 3 minutes of Monday's regional final. Hamann, Saak, McMartin, Scarf, Mathews, Schiom, Rachel Cooley and Taylor Gienger closed their prep careers with another deep run into the postseason.

The first two rounds, of course, saw lightning delays totaling approximately three hours. On Monday, the Rebels couldn't bottle up enough of it to strike back at Gilbert.

At Gilbert

GC/G-R 0 0 - 0

GILBERT 1 2 - 3

First Half

GIL - Eva Steckelberg (Aubrey Mizerak), 5:50.

Second Half

GIL - Natalie Rudman (Steckelberg), 44:17.

GIL - Steckelberg (Hannah Thatcher), 60:45.

Goalkeepers - GC/G-R: Carsen Hamann (16 shots on goal-13 saves); GIL: Emma Bulman (2-2).

Shots - GC/G-R 4, GIL 27.

Shots on Goal - GC/G-R 2, GIL 16.

Fouls - GIL 2.

Corner Kicks - GIL 12.



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