Girls soccer: Ottumwa edges North on penalties

Apr. 15—OTTUMWA — For 100 minutes on Friday night, it was hard for the Ottumwa High School girls soccer team to get anywhere close to the net.

Once those 100 minutes were up, a different game emerged. One the Bulldogs were built for.

After playing to a 1-1 tie through two halves and two 10-minute overtime periods, Ottumwa and Des Moines North would ultimately decide their Iowa Alliance Conference south division match in a penalty-kick shootout. Ottumwa never missed as Jadyn Hallgren, Jhiara Garcia Monzon, Ilana Vasconez and Mia Garza-Trejo all found the back of the net clinching a 4-1 win in the shootout lifting the Bulldogs to their third straight victory all coming in the span of five days erasing an 0-3 start to the season in less than a week.

"I liked our chances in penalty kicks," Ottumwa head girls soccer coach Matthew Erlandson said. "The girls played a lot of long minutes. The girls played a lot of hard minutes. There were girls playing hurt. There were girls that were getting rocked and came back to keep playing physical without giving up."

Ottumwa had to show grit to secure their third win of the week. After averaging nearly 30 shots a match in wins over Albia and Oskaloosa, the Bulldogs were limited to just eight shots by North on Friday none of which came from outside of 20 yards away from the goal.

Each run Ottumwa made to try and get closer to the Polar Bear goal was stymied by North defenders, including several hard tackles that tested the physical and mental strength of the Bulldogs. Hailee McCarl also tested Ottumwa's defense as the North freshman made several deep runs down field using her speed to help create 17 shots by the Polar Bears (2-3, 0-2 Iowa Alliance) in the match.

Finally, with 16.4 seconds left in the first half, McCarl took advantage of a late run sending a shot past Ottumwa freshman goal keeper Blythe Schmidt on a breakaway that bounced into the net off the post to give North a sudden 1-0 lead heading into halftime.

"They had some speedy girls. I think that caught us off-guard," Erlandson said. "We didn't see that speed from (McCarl) until those last 30 seconds of the first half. We had to find a way to shut her down in the second half."

Ottumwa also needed to find a goal despite being kept from making a deep run by a physical North defense. Less than 10 minutes into the second half, Ilana Vasconez found a way to even the score sending a shot from the near wing from 20 yards out into the air with a bend on the kick that allowed the ball to drift over the hands of Polar Bear goal keeper Brisa Medina into the far side of the net to tie the match at 1-1.

"That's probably one of the best goals I've had," Vasconez said of her 13th career high school varsity goal. "A lot of my shots are better from the outside and I can kind of get a little curve on it. I knew the chance was going to have to be a one-touch and a hit right towards the goal. North just packed in and, with the pressure, you just couldn't get in close without getting the ball stolen or getting pushed, so I knew it was going to take a wider chance for us to score."

Ottumwa was able to force Medina to make four saves in the second half and overtime, including a diving stop in the first extra session on an open strike by Garza-Trejo that came within inches of sneaking into the net for a potential Ottumwa winner. Schmidt, however, stepped up by doubling up Medina in total saves making eight stops in the first 100 minutes including a late strike by McCarl that the Bulldog freshman stopped just in front of the goal line with half her body sprawled out inside the net.

"You just try to focus on the ball all the way in. It can be hard at times because there's so many people out in front," Schmidt said. "I just had to go for it. It was a matter of getting my body on top of the ball and securing it. That's my main goal to find the ball and get it underneath me.

"I think, from my elbows up, I was out of the goal. The rest of my body was in the goal. Fortunately, I was able to stop it with my elbows."

That stop sent the match into a shootout, where Schmidt would come up with another big stop. After Monzon's goal in round two of a scheduled five gave Ottumwa a 2-1 lead, Schmidt stopped Hanna Gaya's chance to give the Bulldogs the edge in the shootout.

"They got the first shot past me, so I was a little bit in my own head going into the second round," Schmidt said. "Once I got the save on the second one, that seemed to bring everybody up."

Vasconez kept Ottumwa up, blasting a shot off the hand of Medina into the goal giving the Bulldogs a 3-1 lead. Adar Mangok's attempt to beat Schmidt up high led to a shot missing the net, giving Garza-Trejo her chance to clinch the win with a shot that rolled into the right of Medina setting off a wild celebration by the Bulldogs in the middle of the field.

"I've known Blythe for a very long time. I've played club soccer with her for years," Vasconez said of Schmidt. "Seeing her grow and get better each year, being able to read shots and her poise getting better, is amazing."

After traveling to Ames on Monday as the Courier went to press, the Ottumwa girls (3-3, 1-1 Iowa Alliance) will be back on the road on Friday for a conference match at Des Moines Hoover.

— Scott Jackson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.