Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – In a quick glance the soccer similarities that link Emma Cooper and Regan Steigleder stand out.
The statistics and accolades from their prep playing days are nearly identical for the West High seniors and both will continue their careers in the Big 10 next fall.
That short list is pretty much where the parallels between the two all-state players ends.
“We aren’t complete opposites,” Steigleder said of her and Cooper. “But we are basically as opposite as we can get.”
A closer look at Cooper and Steigleder reveals totally different players with contrasting styles on the field and differing personalities off.
Together those differentiating styles have made Steigleder and Cooper the most dangerous offensive tandem in the state and one of the best duos in Iowa history.
“They both have these completely different skill sets that complement each other and they work well together,” West High coach Dave Rosenthal said. “It’s an incredible combination and it’s not a combination that I will see in a long, long time I am sure.”
In their final season playing together (Steigleder is a Northwestern recruit, Cooper a Michigan signee) the duo has cemented its status as one of the best ever.
Cooper and Steigleder have combined for 63 goals and 32 assists this season while directing third-ranked West High to a 19-1 record entering Friday’s 3A semifinal against Ames (15-3).
Steigleder leads Class 3A with a career-high 36 goals while Cooper leads 3A with 21 assists.
“Over our four years we have definitely grown a lot as a pair,” Cooper said. “As we have become better friends we’ve actually played better together on the field, we communicate so much better.”
Rosenthal knew he had something special in the Steigleder, Cooper combination at a young age.
Before the duo arrived at West High they had already established themselves as high-level players.
The question that Rosenthal knew would come with two elite level players is how would they co-exist.
“When people saw they were coming up together I think a lot of people said, ‘can they do it’,” Rosenthal said. “I think they have clearly answered any sort of criticism that they have got about the ability to play together and work together.”
The longer the two have played together the better they have gotten.
Cooper and Steigleder combined for 27 goals as freshman and 49 as sophomores as West High won the 3A state title.
Last year the duo combined for 42 goals before exploding for 63 this season helping West High lead 3A in scoring by 15 goals.
“Ever since our freshman year we have been working so well together and it has really shown this year,” Steigleder said. “We’ve gotten better playing together.”
The key to the combined success for Steigleder and Cooper is their contrasting styles.
Steigleder is an attacking midfielder with speed and athleticism matched by few in the state.
Cooper is a forward that is comfortable with a skill few high school players possess, playing with her back to the goal.
The combination makes the duo a nightmare for opposing defenders.
“Regan plays very much like a midfielder and it works very well because I like having my back to the goal, I like turning players and she likes running at players and making those through runs so it’s kind of been a perfect meshing this year,” Cooper said. “I think we complement each others’ skills pretty well.”
A rare combination of skill on the ball, speed and leg strength has helped Steigleder accumulate 92 career goals.
Her 36 goals this season are 12 more than she has had any other season in her career.
“She is a totally indispensable player for us on the field,” Cooper said. “She just reads what I want to do really well and as a combo I think we are pretty dangerous against the back line.”
Much of the goal scoring success for Steigleder can be attributed to Cooper and her 3A-leading 21 assists.
“She is really good with her back to the goal and I’m really good at attacking dribbling and it just works perfect,” Steigleder said. “Obviously she has almost every single one of the assists to my goals so it has worked.”
Cooper had never had more than eight assists in a season before this year.
She has 27 goals to go with her 21 assists, giving her 89 goals and 42 assists in her career.
“Emma has changed her game some this year and she has been a fantastic teammate, the number of assists she has, she has set so many players up and obviously she can still score,” Rosenthal said. “You combined that with Regan’s speed and quickness, her understanding of the game and some of the skills that she possesses it is an incredible combination.”So just how good of a combination are Steigleder and Cooper?
In his 26 years of coaching Rosenthal has yet to see a better duo.
“I’ve been around high school soccer for a long time and there have been some very, very good individual players over the years, I have had some pretty incredible players over the years, there was a year back in the late 1990s when I had six Division 1 athletes and those were pretty good players in those days,” Rosenthal said. “If I were to take them as complete players, they are the best I have ever coached.”
The 181 career goals and 70 assists for the duo are impressive.
Perhaps more impressive and definitely more important to Steigleder and Cooper is the 73-11 record West High has accumulated over the past two seasons.
Steigleder and Cooper would like to add two more wins and another state title to their list of career achievements.
“It’s our last shot so it would be pretty awesome,” Cooper said. “It would be an epic end to our career.”