By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Emma Cooper was quick to point out that Tuesday’s season opener against Pleasant Valley wasn’t about revenge.
If Cooper and her West High teammates had a score to settle with the Spartans after a 2-0 defeat in last year's season opener they got more than even with a win in 3A state quarterfinals last June.
That didn’t mean that Cooper wasn’t looking forward to another shot at Pleasant Valley and the West High senior made sure she made the most of that shot on Tuesday.
Cooper scored three first-half goals to lift West High to a 3-1 win over Pleasant Valley in the season opener for both teams at Barker Field.
“We were looking forward to playing them for sure,” Cooper said. “Just because last season they put us on our heels in that first game and I wasn’t willing to let that happen again this year.”
Cooper scored a pair of goals in less than a minute to give West High a 2-0 lead it would never give up as the Women of Troy won their second straight over Pleasant Valley.
Since the 2-0 loss to Pleasant Valley in last year’s season opener, West High has won back-to-back games over the Spartans by a combined score of 6-1.
“Pleasant Valley is always a good rival for us,” West High senior Lexi Shaffer said. “They always push us and I feel like we push them too so it’s a team we look forward to playing against.”
In Tuesday’s season opener it was all West High and all Cooper.
Cooper started the scoring when she intercepted a Pleasant Valley pass and beat keeper Gretchen Strobbe in a one-on-one to put West High up 1-0 less than 12 minutes into the game.
“It took a weight off our shoulders to know that we still had the fire in us after last year,” Cooper said. “That is so cliched but we showed that we still had it in us to go out and take it to a team.”
Cooper struck again just 39 seconds later on a nearly identical play, turning an errant Pleasant Valley pass on West High’s end into a one-on-one goal.
The three-goal game gave Cooper 64 for her career.
“We have players like Emma and Regan (Steigleder) that can take over games and we are encouraging them to do that because we know that they can,” West High coach Dave Rosenthal said. “When you have special players like Regan and Emma and you’ve got a good supporting cast around them that lets them do their work and lets them figure things out then you can be really successful.”
Pleasant Valley got back into the game when Ellie Scranton scored on a header following an Ashley McMahon corner kick in the 30th minute.
McMahon sent the corner into the box and it bounced off several players before Scranton was able to head it over the outstretched hands of West High keeper Ali Tauchen.
“We gave up a goal that we probably shouldn’t have given up but that is a first-year keeper,” Rosenthal said. “She has to figure out how to control the box but that’s a perfect learning experience. If we can be ahead and give up a goal like that we will be alright.”
The momentum didn’t stay with Pleasant Valley for long.
Cooper struck again less than five minutes later, sneaking a shot from outside the box into the lower left corner of the goal to put West High up 3-1.
“I think it was just redeeming, it proved a point,” Cooper said. “Ali is a new goalie and she is doing an awesome job so that was a good learning experience to try to figure out how we are going to set up on defense. That goal was just kind of to say don’t think you are going to come back on us.”
West High never let Pleasant Valley mount much of an attack in the second half.
The back line led by Shaffer helped limit the Spartans to only a pair of solid scoring opportunities in the second half, both resulted in saves by West High keeper Katie McGrane.
“We lost a few seniors last year but I think there are a lot of people that stepped up their games,” Shaffer said. “They were role players and now they are performing 80 minutes a game and they are doing a great job and we work well together.”