Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – Every season for every team features a different set of challenges.
Pick an obstacle and chances are pretty good Regina has encountered it this spring.
A young Regina squad filled with first-year players has faced a challenging schedule loaded with larger schools, battled a couple of injuries and switched up its lineup all while getting limited training time together due to many multi-sport athletes going from sport to sport.
“Part of our challenge has just been trying to play together as a team,” Regina coach Anne Larew said. “Because of people being vaccinated, because of COVID, because of other sports and because we are a brand new team that has never played together every time we have started a game it has been with a different team, it has never been the same 11. Figuring out how to play together is a challenge for any team, any year and figuring out how to play together this year is especially challenging.”
The hurdles keep coming for the Regals this season and Regina continues to come up with ways to soar past them.
Class 1A ninth-ranked Regina got goals from three different players and improved to 5-3 on the season with a commanding 3-0 win over Mid-Prairie (7-4) on Tuesday at Regal Field.
“From the beginning of the season we have improved so, so much,” Regina sophomore Grace Gaarde said. “It’s hard sometimes without everyone at our practices but even without that we have gotten so much better and we are still learning to work together and improving every day.”
Regina isn’t the only team facing unique challenges this season.
After the coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of spring sports a year ago teams across the state have focused on building chemistry with a new set of players.
The Regina lineup has been especially dependent on fresh faces this spring.
More than half of the Regina roster is made up of freshman and sophomores that hadn’t played in a varsity match before this season.
Throw in a couple of seniors that joined for the first time this season and its almost an entirely new look for Regina.
“Given all of the challenges the girls have just risen to the occasion,” Larew said. “They really have a good dynamic and a good work ethic.”
Another obstacle for the Regals is time together.
Several players, including several key starters, divide their time between soccer and track and a few others play golf.
Last week Regina had a single hour of practice time with its entire roster.
“The reality is if we have two players we are going to work hard with those two players,” Larew said. “Those players that are there at practice, any day we practice are working hard.”
Regina outscored opponents 33-4 during a 4-0 start to the season before dropping three consecutive matches to opponents from larger classes.
The Regals were outscored by a combined 9-2 margin in losses to 3A teams Davenport North and Cedar Rapids Washington and 2A fifth-ranked Clear Creek Amana.
A challenging schedule is a staple of the Regina program and is already paying dividends.
“We work every day in practice to get better and I think playing the big schools and good teams that we play helps a lot,” Regina senior Emma Sueppel said. “That competition makes us ready to play teams at our level.”
Regina snapped its three-match losing skid on Tuesday and was impressive in the process, controlling possession and the match against Mid-Prairie.
Natalie Franklin, Sueppel and Gaarde all had goals as Regina won for the first time since April 19.
“It’s hard because we have been playing these really good teams that are from bigger classes but we also needed those games to get better,” Gaarde said. “Those games made us better but we needed a game like this to build us up again and show that we can come back and get wins.”
Franklin got Regina on the board less than 20 minutes in when she snuck in a shot from in front of the goal.
Sueppel gave the Regals a 2-0 halftime lead with a goal with 7:53 left in the opening half.
The senior slammed a shot from 10 yards outside the box into the upper left-hand corner of the goal.
“I got the pass from Grace and my teammates were communicating with me that it was open so I just took it,” Sueppel said. “You don’t know if it’s open until people communicate and when I looked it was open and a good shot to take.”
Gaarde put the match out of reach less than six minutes into the second half when she took a pass from Gahan and slipped up the middle and into the box where she beat Mid-Prairie keeper Emily Swartzendruber for the goal.
“I get really good passes from Emma in the midfield and Annie (Gahan),” Gaarde said. “They pass me really good through balls where I am perfectly in front of the goal, one-on-one with the goalie and I just try to tip it in.”
Sophomore keeper Courtney Kessler made eight saves while posting the shutout in goal, her third shutout of the season.
“We have some very dynamic players and they are fun to watch,” Larew said. “That makes it even more fun when they are creating playing and working hard. So that’s really fun.”