Your Prep Sports
MARION – In a sport where precision is imperative to success it was a season of close calls for the Liberty High soccer team.
It was the final close call that was the toughest for the Lightning.
Liberty High battled back from a three-goal halftime deficit but came up just shy of a comeback in a 3-2 loss to ninth-ranked Marion in the Class 2A, Region 4 title game on Thursday evening in Marion.
“So many what ifs,” Liberty High coach Frank Fiordellisi said. “So many what ifs on their goals so many what ifs on our close chances. It’s kind of a microcosm of our season.”
Marion (12-2) scored three goals in the opening 28 minutes and held off a furious second-half surge from Liberty High to advance to the state tournament for the first time in program history.
The Wolves will face Dallas Center-Grimes (15-3) in a Class 2A quarterfinal on Wednesday at Cownie Soccer Complex in Des Moines.
Liberty High closed the season 9-9 with seven of its losses coming by a single goal.
The nine wins are the second most in a season for the Lightning, behind only the 11 wins the Lightning had in 2021.
“I’m super proud of the effort but if we just do that in the first half we are sitting pretty. Hopefully we can use it as positives, hopefully the young players that are coming back are going to use it as motivation and fuel,” Fiordellisi said. “Clearly our program is headed in the right direction.”
Playing with the breeze at its back Marion bolted to an early lead on a pair of goals from sophomore Amerie Hall in the opening 12 minutes.
Hall hit a shot from outside the box into the upper left corner of the game to give the Wolves a 1-0 lead less than nine minutes in.
The second goal for Hall in the 11th minute was from even further out and gave Marion an early 2-0 cushion.
Selah Hill-Dale scored from distance with 12:37 remaining in the opening half to give Marion a 3-0 halftime lead.
Liberty High quickly cut into the deficit after halftime.
Freshman Callie Stanley gave the Lightning life with a goal 21 seconds into the second half.
“At halftime we said here is what we are going to do and if you are going to step on the field 100 percent effort and we changed the game,” Fiordellisi said. “I am very proud of them for that.”
Stanley cut the lead to a single goal when she converted a penalty kick with 23:44 remaining after Marion was called for a foul in the box.
“I know what type of team we have and what type of character we have,” Fiordellisi said. “I’m sad for them because had we showed that same desire and work and competitiveness and discipline in the first half I think we would have been able to take care of the business we needed to.”
Liberty created plenty of scoring chances in the final 20 minutes but couldn’t get the equalizer.
A corner kick by Stanley in the final five minutes bounced around in the box but Liberty High couldn’t get a clean shot on goal.
The Lightning finished with 18 shots to six for Marion.
“It was only a matter of time, if we scored five more minutes we are scoring a goal,” Fiordellisi said. “It’s only a matter of time but it’s disappointing that we self-imploded to start the game because we clearly showed what type of team we are. Some of it was nerves, some of it was inexperience in a big moment.”