By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – The plan all along was for Katie McGrane, Ali Tauchen and Rachael Saunders to play key roles on a West High state title team.
That’s still the plan with a few minor changes.
McGrane, Tauchen and Saunders figured they would be celebrating a state title together in basketball but came up short last winter.
Now the trio of hoopsters turned goalkeepers hope to get their long-awaited title on the soccer field.
McGrane and Tauchen have shared the goalkeeping duties for second-ranked West High (17-1) which hosts Cedar Rapids Prairie (9-8) in a Class 3A regional final on Monday at 6 p.m. at Barker Field.
“This year I made an announcement on the basketball team just kind of for fun and said ‘I’m going to go out for soccer’ and Ali chirped up and said ‘me too’,” McGrane said. “We made that connection but we never would have thought that both of us would be playing goalie and now in training we have so much fun with it and we support it each other so much.”
In their first season of varsity soccer McGrane and Tauchen have turned the keeper position from a question mark to a strength for West High.
The duo often splits games, with each player spending a half in goal and have excelled in their new roles.
Together, McGrane and Tauchen have allowed 10 combined goals, third fewest in Class 3A.
“Oh my god, I’ve been so impressed by both of them and what they’ve done,” West High senior all-state midfielder Regan Steigleder said. “Neither of them have ever played goalie and it’s amazing to me how good they are doing. I would say they are natural athletes but still, what they’ve done is amazing.”
The basketball teammates have followed a long, unusual and sometimes painful path from the hardwood to the soccer pitch.
Tauchen made up her mind to join Saunders on the soccer field last season but that idea was scrapped by surgery to repair a torn ACL in her knee sustained during basketball.
Saunders, an all-stater on the basketball court, was the junior varsity keeper for West High last season but suffered her own torn ACL at the state basketball tournament last March.
The injury to Saunders and the graduation of two-year starter Caitlin Ryan left a rather large void in the goal for the defending 3A runner-up Women of Troy.
Tauchen and McGrane were ready to give it a try.
They have learned together while helping West High become one of the toughest teams in the state to score upon.
“Rachel got hurt and they didn’t have a goalie so we said lets try it,” Tauchen explained. “It helps having someone going through it with you. Someone to ask questions to that you know is experiencing the same thing.”
As the West High coaches began to look for someone to fill the hole at goalkeeper they quickly keyed in on Tauchen and McGrane.
Tauchen is a 6-foot senior headed to Missouri Western for a collegiate volleyball career while the 5-foot-8 McGrane had a year of soccer experience as a junior varsity forward as sophomore.
West High coach Dave Rosenthal also liked the experience the duo had in other sports and how it translated to goalie.
“That’s part of the reason we looked at them we said they are athletes, lets see what they can do,” Rosenthal said. “We want to get some good hands there and those two kids are incredibly coachable and love to compete.”
McGrane and Tauchen were eager to fill in the only problem was neither had ever attempted to play goalie.
The lessons from the West High coach staff started out slow and began to get more complicated.
Some things came easy, others took time.
“Honestly kicking was the hardest part, kicking is hard,” McGrane said while laughing. “I’m good with the whole hands thing but punting, goal kicks, it’s difficult. I have to give goalies credit before this I thought they got to use their hands it’s easy but it’s a hard job.”
McGrane and Tauchen both picked things up quickly.
The duo has combined to post 10 shutouts and has a goal against average of .624, third best in Class 3A and has a combined 89 saves.
“(Assistant coach) Ryan Steward has done a great job with them,” West High coach Dave Rosenthal said. “He has done a fantastic job spending 15-20 minutes a day working with them and you can see how far they have come.”
With no previous experience, Tauchen and McGrane have tried to help the other learn from their own mistakes.
They have figured the intricacies of the position out together.
“We give each other feedback and try to help each other out,” Tauchen said. “We try to give tips to help the other learn from things that we’ve experienced.”
Tauchen and McGrane each spent a half in goal in West High’s 10-0 regional semifinal win over Clinton.
The duo is four wins away from finally getting to share a state title, just like they planned.
“I don’t know if I ever thought I’d be playing varsity soccer and I definitely didn’t think it would be goalie,” McGrane said. “But I’m so glad that I decided to do it, it’s been amazing and getting to do it with someone like Ali has been great.”