The scoreboard at the end of Iowa Mennonite’s quarterfinal bout with Sioux Center read 5-1 in favor of the Warriors, but that doesn’t tell the story of the pressure Iowa Mennonite put on Sioux Center in the second half.
After giving up two goals within the first 15 minutes of play, Iowa Mennonite knew something had to change. They held Sioux Center scoreless for the final 25 minutes of the first half, but still were consistently giving up possession in the midfield.
“Our coaches told us that we have to really pressure them and our midfielders have to get up to win those 50-50 balls,” Iowa Mennonite junior Drew Blauvelt said.
After the halftime break, Iowa Mennonite started to win those balls in the midfield as Jacob Boller, Cody Jones and others started to put pressure on Sioux Center.
Then finally Iowa Mennonite found the back of the net. Boller had won a ball and sent a pass sailing up to forward Drew Blauvelt. Blauvelt stopped the ball’s momentum with his foot and took a few touches to evade Zeke Foltz, the Sioux Center goalkeeper. From there he had an open field in front of him and a few defenders on his tail. Blauvelt took a few more dribbles and powered the ball into the goal to bring the game seven minutes into the second half.
Blauvelt called the moment pretty stressful with just the ball and the goal in front of him.
“I thought I took one too many touches and they were going to get it, but I was super happy and my heart fell out of my chest,” Blauvelt said.
The Iowa Mennonite goal seemed to up the urgency from Sioux Center, who started winning more of the 50-50 balls and threatening the Iowa Mennonite defense. With around 27 minutes left on the clock, Iowa Mennonite goalkeeper Blake Bontrager made two saves in quick succession by blocking away a shot and then catching the re-shot. Bontrager made five saves on the day.
Two minutes later disaster struck as a handball was called inside the box and Sioux Center widened the gap back to two at 3-1.
“I think it just drained us after that penalty kick and then just foul after foul built up and we couldn’t keep up,” Blauvelt said.
After the penalty kick, Sioux Center stayed on the attack for the rest of the game. They added two goals on simple 1-2 through balls against a defensive front that had switched from four to three defenders in an effort to create some offense.
“When you let a team as skilled as they are beat you to the ball it is going to be tough,” Iowa Mennonite coach Marcus Miller said.
The final score was 5-1, but even in defeat Iowa Mennonite found a way to laugh about the score with a sarcastic cheer as they were presented their state participant trophy.
“We are a great team and keep our heads up even today when we lose 5-1. Not many people expected us to get here. So we proved them wrong,” Iowa Mennonite senior Louis Etienne said.
Etienne is one of four Iowa Mennonite seniors who were a part of back-to-back state tournament berths. Others include Jacob Boller, Cody Jones and Blake Bontrager.
Miller said each of the four provided a unique aspect to the team and were a part of one of Iowa Mennonite’s most successful periods in school history.
Sioux Center went on to face Columbus Catholic (Waterloo) in the semifinals, dropping that contest 2-0. Columbus Catholic took on Iowa City Regina on Tuesday in the Class 1A final. Regina beat Greene County 2-1 in overtime and West Liberty 3-1 to reach the finals.
The state tournament was pushed back one day due to field conditions last Thursday.