Boys' Soccer: HISTORY IN THE MAKING
As Junior Gutierrez danced his way through a swarm of defenders to punch home the game’s first goal just six minutes in, Greene County sensed a historic moment approaching.
It was just a matter of how wide the final margin would end up being.
Ultimately, the boys’ soccer team pounded Unity Christian in a 1A substate clash Monday evening in Denison, 11-2, securing their first postseason win in program history.
Gutierrez was a terror with the ball all evening long, tallying four goals, two in a 60 second span early in the second half, as the Rams made quick work in their inaugural playoff game.
The win was businesslike for Greene County, as the Rams expressed tamed excitement as they left the field in triumph Monday, confident in their play. The Rams (10-8) had outscored Unity Christian (2-12) by nearly 50 goals entering the match and had tallied seven more wins. But first-year head coach Carl Behne was certainly aware of the significance Monday. The Rams are now fourth in 1A with 73 goals thanks to their fourth double-digit goal output of the season, placing them fifth in all of Iowa. It was quite the way to make their presence known as the postseason got underway.
“It's a huge confidence booster for the boys,” Behne said following the historic win. “(We) know (we) can play and (we) know (we) can move the ball.”
The victory didn’t come without a handful of moments to build on. The defense broke down on a few occasions Monday and the passing wasn’t as crisp as Behne would’ve liked it. The Rams can most certainly reach another level of play, he said, even after a nine-goal win. They have their eyes set on much loftier goals, not merely settling for the first playoff win in school history.
“Really, for us, it's just not having those flat three or four minute pockets throughout the game. With certain teams you can get away with that, you give up a goal or two, but with other teams you can't do that,” Behne said. “We've got to continue to work on that and eliminate those small pockets of lackadaisical (play).”
The Rams led 4-1 at halftime, conceding a weak goal after taking a 3-0 lead. But midfielder Austin Delp helped push the lead back to three as the first half clock wound down. The junior chased down a rebound wide of the goal, eluded the Unity Christian goalkeeper and found Leo Marques for his second score of the night. That cohesiveness is really what has made the Rams so potent this spring. Combining a group of life-long friends with a handful of talented foreign exchange students has melded into an offense that quickly became one of the state’s best.
“When you bring in the mix of guys that have played for a long time not only here in Green County, but in their own country, the things that Leo and Junior (do), and Junior is from Greene County, but he brings that flavor of foreign soccer,” Behne said. “So it didn't take me long to realize how good we could be as a team. It would just be a matter of how we’d gel as a team. And we've done a nice job. So I think at the end of the year, I really can't complain. I'm really pleased.”
The flood gates opened in the second half as the Rams scored three times in the opening 10 minutes, none more magnificent than back-to-back goals from Gutierrez, a long free kick from 20 yards out followed by a vicious strike into the upper 90 a mere 60 seconds later. Greene County scored seven goals across the final 40 minute frame, leaving little doubt who was the better team.
Marques ended the night with a hat trick of his own, bumping his season-total to 35, which is the second best mark in all of Iowa, while Cael Fisher chipped in two scores. Freshman Luis Velazco also added a goal. Gutierrez sits at 18 goals on the year, which is the ninth best total in all of 1A.
Finding the right windows, helping each other out on defense and working together is vital if the Rams want to capture revenge in Wednesday’s second round matchup against Kuemper Catholic.
Behne wants his guys to communicate better. Unity Christian’s pair of goals both came on defensive lapses which left goalkeeper Kyle Peters vulnerable.
“(Communication) is huge. It's huge whether it's a defensive communication, which is probably the area we need to improve the most,” Behne said. “But offensively in the midfield, telling a guy where to put the ball. Understanding where your teammate is going to be. Because often, you've got a guy or two around you and you can't see everything. So communication is huge.”
Monday’s lopsided victory sets up a rematch with Kuemper Catholic at 5 [/,/ Wednesday evening in Denison, in the second round of 1A substate 1 action. The Knights were victorious 1-0 over Greene County back in mid-April in Carroll, a soggy game marred by muddy and uneven field conditions.
Kuemper (12-7) defeated Western Christian in penalty kicks on Monday. Knowing the Knights were locked in a much more challenging first round match, Behne and company are ready for revenge.
“Better playing conditions for both of us will be ideal and that will help both sides. Again, communication and ball movement (will be key). (When we last played Kuemper), not to make excuses, but we were coming off four games in five days early in the season,” the coach said. “The boys weren't quite ready and (didn’t) understand what kind of toll that was going to take on their bodies.
Hopefully, we'll be able to get a little redemption. If we play like (Monday) at least, I feel like we're going to be in the game. And that's all you can really ask.”
Wednesday’s winner is set to square off Saturday against either ninth-ranked Gilbert (10-7) or Sioux Center (9-4) at 5 p.m. in Gilbert, with a shot at state on the line.
Gilbert beat Greene County 1-0 back on April 24 at home. The Tigers opened postseason play with a 1-0 win over West Sioux while Sioux Center was victorious, 3-2 over MOC-Floyd Valley.
The 2018 state tournament will be held May 30-June 2 at Cownie Soccer Park in Des Moines.
Greene County girls open postseason play at No. 2 Gilbert
A terrifying rematch awaits the Greene County girls’ soccer team Tuesday night.
The Rams (4-11) will square off against second-ranked Gilbert at 6 p.m. in Gilbert in the first round of 1A region 2 play. The Tigers blanked Greene County 10-0 in the second game of the year back in early April.
The Rams are led by Bailey Cunningham, Neyalli Lopez, and Makala Kafer, who have all scored two goals apiece. Gilbert has scored 50 goals in 13 games and is led by Emily Branson, who has tallied 12 goals of her own.
Tuesday’s winner will take on the winner of either Kuemper Catholic or Panorama June 1 in Gilbert.