If possession is nine-tenths of the law we better call the police to lock up the City High girls soccer team.
Cedar Rapids Prairie possessed the ball the majority of the game and showed an impressive ability to connect several passes in a row in trying to put together an attack. But the Hawks seriously challenged the net only a couple times as City High won 2-0 on its new turf field.
The Little Hawks spent the first 20 minutes in slow motion. When they had a run out there was no support behind it. Prairie connected passes at will. Assistant coach Edgar Arceo could be heard pleading with players to be more aggressive in the face of Prairie’s passing: “They’re just freelancing up the gut.”
“We needed some time to get in it,” senior Molly Powell-Littler said. “We had a couple key players missing today, and I think there was a chip on our shoulder. Then we realized we can do this.”
“We started a little slower than we wanted to,” senior midfielder Erin Danielson said. “We’ve kind of been off and on on that. We’ve had some games where we jumped right out. But this game got postponed twice, and we didn’t have our usual lineup so we were all a little off at the beginning.”
City picked it up in the final 20 minutes of the half. Powell-Littler took a pass on the left wing about 20 yards out from Lia Phanthavong and booted the ball high and over the keeper and into the net for the first goal with 12 minutes left in the half.
“I had the space; I had a great cross from my partner in crime, Lia, and I saw the space, I saw the angle,” Powell-Littler said. “It was a lucky shot, I guess. Also, we had the whole team coming up; even if we got a rebound off it somebody would be there.”
The Little Hawks had one more great chance before halftime when Danielson’s through ball found the foot of Corbin Scholz. Scholz had no one in front of her but the keeper, but her shot went high.
The 1-0 lead stood at halftime where there was some discussion about possession.
“They had a sequence where they had seven passes in the first half. We said we can’t let that happen,” Powell-Littler said. “If you don’t get the ball, at least get in on it and disrupt them.”
“We talked a lot about winning 50-50s, communicating,” Danielson said.
“They really listened,” City coach Sara Bleeker said. “They have the desire but the difference in the second half was you could really tell the speed of play was faster. They were stepping to balls that they weren’t stepping to in the first half. Mentally, they wanted it in the first half. But in the second half they were bringing more intensity.”
The Little Hawks did not go into a defensive posture in the second half to protect the lead. Instead, they kept attacking. Prairie’s best chance came about halfway through the second half when it had possession deep in City’s end of the field for nearly two minutes. It seemed like an eternity to the parents in the stands, but again Prairie was unable to put a shot on goal.
“Our defense did a wonderful job. I think our center mids did a wonderful job,” Powell-Littler said. “They really broke it down the first half. We saw it, we recognized how well they were passing and then we came back the second half and talked to coaches about it and brought that intensity and made sure we were stopping those passes.”
Bleeker said her team was selective in when it would go after Prairie’s passes. In certain parts of the field the Little Hawks played more of a containment defense. But in other areas they were more aggressive in attacking.
With seven minutes left Prairie’s last shot on goal was handled easily by goalie Maddie Donahue. Two minutes later Danielson crossed to Powell-Littler in the middle, and Powell-Littler booted it home from the middle of the box for the 2-0 final margin.
“I always know that both of our forwards and our other outside mid always crash in, so I decided to try and place it along the six,” Danielson said. “I don’t usually get to cross it, so that was kind of fun.”
Powell-Littler didn’t dink around with the ball and give the defense time to adjust. She just booted it home.
“It was a wonderful cross. It was on a platter,” Powell-Littler said. “We were all holding our breath because 1-0 is a terrible score. Of course it’s better than 0-0, but it’s very intense. If you lose it you can really lose your momentum, but we kept it.”
City improved to 4-4 while Prairie is 3-5. The four Little Hawk wins match the victory total of the last two seasons combined. City lost 4-0 to Prairie a year ago.