The Glenwood boys state tournament frustrations continued on Thursday with a 2-1 loss to Dubuque Wahlert in the opening round of the Class 3A State Soccer Tournament at Cownie Soccer Park in Des Moines.
The Rams and coach Mike Artist have talked all post-season about getting the proverbial monkey off their back at state. Glenwood had lost three straight state openers heading into Thursday’s match. But despite a literal burying of the monkey – the team buried a large, stuffed gorilla at an undisclosed location near the team’s home soccer field earlier in the week – the Rams’ couldn’t bury the Golden Eagles.
“This is the best game we’ve played down here,” Artist said after the game. “The last three times they played they got us back on our heels. We were prepared, I don’t know about all year but this was the best quality game we played all year. They played their hearts out and there’s nothing to hang our heads about.”
No. 4 seeded Glenwood (14-5) had its shots early. Just 58 seconds in, Trenton McNeel had a breakaway shot that keeper Ryan Ernst snagged out of the air. Three minutes later Tyler Jensen’s perfect crossing shot just missed the out-stretched foot of Joey Stivers on a one-shot attempt.
The Eagles didn’t wait long to capitalize. Wahlert’s Nick Nemmer booted a penalty kick that ricocheted off Sam Koenig’s head just past the hand of keeper Matt Schultz for the game’s first goal.
The score would remain 1-0 for the next 48 minutes.
Glenwood finally got on the board in the 59th minute off, of all things, a throw-in set piece. The Rams’ Drake Ruth fired a throw in to the center box where, after pinballing around in the middle of the field, McNeel turned on it and fired in the Rams’ first goal to tie the game at 1-1.
But 10 minutes later Koenig struck again, this time off a corner kick he poked in past a diving Schulz for the game-winner.
“Both teams wanted it so bad,” Artist said. “I think that’s what I saw, especially in the second half. We tied it up and we had a couple more chances to get it done, and it came down to heart and luck. You have to have a little bit of that on your side. But both teams wanted it so bad it came down to the last few minutes.”
Artist said his team saw their fair share of missed opportunities in a game that couldn’t afford it, but he never saw his team surrender.
“It just came down to putting the ball in the net,” he said. “We had two chances early. You never know. You can always look back, that might have been the turning point. My hats off to these kids. They never slacked and they never quit.”
The Rams’ 16 seniors wrap up their career as one of the more decorated groups in Glenwood soccer history, including a four-year record of 58-19, three state tournament appearances and two Hawkeye 10 Conference titles. Artist paused when asked about what his seniors meant to his team this season.
“They’ve been out pretty much all four years.” said the coach, fighting back tears. “They’re terrific kids. They work hard, they work hard in the off season, they’re disciplined and they wanted to be the best. That’s what I’ll remember most.”
So, about that monkey?
“We wanted to change things up a bit so we beat it up and buried and it came out here and played the game,” Artist said. “There’s not much else we can do. These kids played their hearts out and I’m proud of them, they had a terrific season. There’s no shame in losing to Wahlert. Yeah, they had a 9-9 season but they were here to play just like us. I’m proud of my boys.”