DES MOINES - The offense did the job in the first half and defense dominated the final 40 minutes for No. 2 North Polk in a 2-0 victory over Tri-Center in the Class 1A quarterfinals at the girls’ state soccer tournament June 8 at the Cownie Soccer Complex in Des Moines.
North Polk (17-2) dominated the first half. Even though it was the first state game in program history, it didn’t take long for the Comets to start asserting their will.
Tri-County hung around for about 10 minutes, but then North Polk began getting more and more good runs at the goal. The aggressive play was something the Comets were determined to establish early on as the higher-seeded team.
“We took advice from our volleyball girls who said they kind of froze when they got to state,” North Polk senior defender Maddy Hill said. “(They went) ‘oh, we made it’ instead of going to state and having the mindset they were going to win state. So that was the mindset we came in with.”
Just before the midway point of the first half, North Polk capitalized on its first great look. Courtney Bonewitz found Joy Smith on a run and Smith maneuvered her way around the Trojan defense and fired a shot into the net for a 1-0 Comet advantage.
“It was a really nice pass,” Smith said. “After I finished, our whole team got excited and we started playing even better and took that momentum into our second goal.”
The Comets kept up the pressure over the next 15 minutes. Then at the 35:28 mark, a perfectly-executed corner kick gave North Polk a 2-0 lead.
Katryn Halterman connected on the corner and freshman Jalen Heintz came up and knocked it into the net to put the Comets in firm control.
“Katryn served a really nice ball in,” Heintz said. “After I put it in, it was really nice to have the whole team come in — it was really good for the team.”
Tri-County toughened up defensively in the second half. North Polk was unable to get back on the board, but it didn’t matter, thanks to a dominant defensive effort.
Hill and Gracie Harmeyer set the tone for the Comet defense. But the Comet front line also made life easier for Comet keeper Sawyer Elwell.
“It really helped (that) the offensive people stepped in front of balls so they couldn’t get that long ball in,” Hill said. “It made it a lot easier on the defense. All we had to do was mark our girls and not let them through.”