Rebels turn tide on No. 4 Knights
LA PORTE CITY – Union’s halftime adjustment worked wonders.
Gladbrook-Reinbeck made sure it wasn’t enough with some changes of its own and a first-half effort that left the Knights too far behind.
Moving right forward Kyleah Dugan to the backline and ratcheting up their pressure on the ball, the Rebels overcame a more offensive approach from the Knights in the second half to hang on for a 4-3 win in a Class 1A Region 6 semifinal Friday.
Nicole Adair recorded a hat trick in the first 40 minutes and assisted on what proved to be the game-winning header by Hanna Christopher as the 10th-ranked Rebels upset the No. 4 Knights and reversed the result from a 4-1 loss to Union back on May 2.
“I think it was our attitude – we came out tough, we came ready to play and we were aggressive,” Adair said of the difference in their second match-up with the Knights. “We came to play, we came to win and that’s what we did.”
Gladbrook-Reinbeck (12-5) advances to face No. 8 Solon (13-5) in the Region 6 final Monday at 6 p.m. in Solon. A win would secure G-R its first state tournament appearance in school history.
Adair’s corner kick cross found Christopher unmarked on the left side as she directed the ball past Alyssa Wrage to extend the Rebels’ advantage to 4-1 in the 65th minute.
“I wasn’t really marked,” Christopher said of her header. “I just come in out of nowhere usually and (Nicole) had a perfect ball and it went in.”
Union switched from a 4-3-3 formation to a 4-4-2 after the break and the extra attacker continued to make a difference as the Knights rallied back within a goal with 2:28 to play.
“We changed our formation to try to match the way they were playing,” Union coach Steven Pearce said. “We had to almost change our gameplan to try to get back into the game. It almost worked, it just wasn’t quite enough. We were definitely much better in the second half.”
Tessa Reiter fired one inside the far post from the right side in the 71st and Dayton Powell added a long-range left-footed blast six minutes later to cut the Rebels’ lead to one. Powell also scored in the 45th on a penalty kick after her freshman sister, Courtney Powell was tackled inside the penalty area.
G-R held off a late barrage of shots from the Knights as Dugan got in front of a couple, while Bailea Evenson made two saves in goal. G-R eventually cleared the ball out of harm’s way as time ran out on Union (14-5), which had won 14 straight.
“Kyleah Dugan was phenomenal back there,” G-R coach Cheryl Pease said. “She was reading the ball well and communicating back there with Elise Peterson. My holding midfielder, Alyssa Christopher, and her sister, Hanna, played well off of each other.”
Courtney Powell came in with a state-leading 45 goals and eight hat tricks but was held scoreless for the first time in 17 matches. Adair entered the game second in Iowa with 41 goals and moved within one of Powell after her trio of first-half scores.
Adair lofted a 40-yard bomb on a free kick that sailed just inside the left post in the 4th minute and followed it up with a hustle goal from much closer range 13 minutes later. The G-R junior tracked down a Hayley Weber lob as Wrage whiffed on an attempted clearance leaving nothing but green in front of Adair.
Adair scored her third goal in the 29th on a penalty kick after Wrage got tangled up with Hannah Martin’s legs on a cross.
Each improbable goal seemed to take more steam out of the Knights, which struggled to communicate effectively on the back end.
“It was definitely a shock conceding so early,” Pearce said. “It took us too long to recover. The second and third goal came and it was just too much for us to come back form in the end.”
While communication issues caused some defensive lapses for the Knights, the Rebels were almost always in sync.
“We worked really hard on communication and supporting the man on the ball,” Pease said. “It was really about winning the ball back, pressuring the ball and communicating effectively. We just weren’t quite there earlier in the season and when we played them (before), we weren’t quite where we wanted to be. I’m really proud of them, they’ve come a long way.”
The Spartans defeated Mount Vernon 6-1 in their semifinal match Friday. … G-R has won six straight. … Union had defeated its last four opponents by a 37-0 margin. Their previous four losses came against Class 2A No. 1 Waverly-Shell Rock, 1A No. 15 Denver and Class 3A’s Iowa City West and Cedar Falls. … Adair moved ahead of Powell (99) in total points to lead the state with 103.