‘Our best game of the year’

Union-North Tama takes out Tigerhawks in postseason regional opener

Union-North Tama freshman forward Mallory Karr, right, kicks the ball toward the net deep in Tigerhawk territory in what ended up being the Knights’ opening goal last Wednesday night in La Porte City during the Class 1A Region 7 opener. Union-North Tama won 4-2 over North Fayette Valley to advance to the semifinals. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

LA PORTE CITY – The Union-North Tama girls soccer team took out the North Fayette Tigerhawks 4-2 at Union Stadium on Wednesday, May 15, in a Class 1A Region 7 opener, playing what Knights head coach John Simon called “arguably our best game of the year.”

It was the second time this season the Knights (7-11) faced the Tigerhawks (7-7) having also won the previous matchup in a shutout back on April 18.

The Knights made use of the entire field Wednesday night – something Simon said the team has been striving toward all season.

“The girls played a great game,” he told the Telegraph in a text exchange. “They used the entire field connecting passes to each other. They played as one unit instead of relying on the efforts of one or two girls.”

The health of the Knights also played a role in Wednesday night’s results, Simon said; against the Tigerhawks, Union-North Tama’s roster was at full health which has not been the case since the beginning of the season which put a lot of pressure on the starters.

Knights junior forward Avery Knoop (10) takes a hard shot at the North Fayette Valley goal last Wednesday during Union-North Tama’s regional quarterfinal win over the Tigerhawks. Knights head coach John Simon deemed Knoop ‘player of the match’ during the Class 1A Region 7 opener, writing on Facebook, “Avery is our threat up top. Tonight, Avery contributed on all [four] of our goals. She had [two] goals herself and then added [two] assists.” PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

While senior Dena Robb skillfully defended the net for the Knights at keeper as she’s done since senior starter Dacey Powell went out with a hand injury early in the season, Powell herself was also back on the field.

“Dacey has been playing in the midfield for the past [three games],” Simon said. “Once she was cleared to play on the field, we tried to get her more and more playing time. Even though it hasn’t been in goal – where she wants to be – Dacey understands the game and is willing to play wherever she is needed in order to help the team.

“That ‘team first’ attitude is why she is one of our captains and leaders on the team.”

The Knights ended the first half up 3-0 on the Tigerhawks before knocking in their fourth goal with some 13 minutes remaining in the second half. North Fayette Valley managed their lone pair of goals near the end of the second half.

Against the Tigerhawks, junior forward Avery Knoop led the offense for the Knights, notching the team’s third and fourth goals with assists from freshman forward Hinley Mast. Freshman forward Mallory Karr recorded the Knights’ opening goal roughly 12 minutes into the first half with a high shot from the left that North Fayette Valley’s keeper was unable to control, while Mast scored the Knights’ second goal from near the center. Both were assisted by Knoop.

Freshman midfielder Hailey Petersen makes a pass last Wednesday evening during the Knights regional quarterfinal win over the North Fayette Valley Tigerhawks. Knights head coach John Simon told the newspaper the game was one of his team's best the season due to his players' passing and use of the full field. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

On Tuesday of this week, Union-North Tama was scheduled to face No. 4 Denver (16-1) in the regional semifinal at the Denver Athletic Complex. It’s a game, Simon said, the Knights must play to perfection if they hope to advance further.

“[W]e will have to play even better [versus] Denver. They are a team that doesn’t make many mistakes, so we will have to put them on the defensive where we can capitalize when they do make a mistake.

“Last time we played Denver, they controlled the ball more. This go-around, we need to keep possession of the ball at a higher percentage. They scored three times on us last time on set plays (2 corners and 1 free-kick), so we have to minimize the number of times they get those opportunities.”

The Knights hosted the Cyclones on April 23, dropping the game 5-0 but showing true grit in the defensive line by keeping the score from running up any higher.

“The biggest thing we can do going into this game versus Denver is our attitude and our belief – two things we can control. When these girls play together as a team, they can play.”

Avery Knoop (10) celebrates a successful goal with her teammates including Hinley Mast (23) who provided the assist. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

Knights senior keeper Dena Robb stops a Tigerhawks' goal attempt late in the game last Wednesday at Union Stadium. Robb made 15 saves against North Fayette Valley, while allowing two. As of Tuesday of this week, Robb was No. 8 for saves in Class 1A with 197 and an 87.9% save rate, one of the highest across all classes. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER