Indian Hills Community College women’s soccer coach Anthony Longo could see it, and Madison L. Meyer knew it.
After 15 minutes on the bench, it was time to rise to the occasion.
Longo frustratingly pulled his freshman midfielder early in the second half, and Meyer responded when it mattered most as she steered in a tiebreaking header with 10 minutes left lift the Warriors to a 4-3 win on Sophomore Day Saturday.
“I took some quiet time and got myself refocused,” said Meyer who, like Longo, is a Quincy Notre Dame graduate. “He was right. My game was off, my passes weren’t connecting. Overall, it was just a struggle today.”
The Warriors (14-1-1) survived Northeast’s strong play in the first half as a steady rain created plenty of problems for both teams. Two big saves by goalie Alani Mears kept the Warriors within 2-1 at halftime when it could have been much worse.
“The pressure was on our kids today because this was a must-win game for us. There’s just no way to hide that,” Longo said, referring to seeding in the ICCAC tournament. “Northeast came out quick and loose, and we were tight. They capitalized on our mistakes.”
Mears was caught well out of the penalty area on Northeast’s first goal as Kahrena Thompson fired into an open net less than five minutes in. The Warriors got the goal back on the first of two Emily Murphy tallies in her final regular-season home match.
However, 10 minutes after Murphy tied it, the Hawks (13-4) went back on top on a wide-angle shot by Emma Weaver.
“Losing was not an option for us today,” Murphy said. “Playing a game like this was important going into the playoffs.”
The Warriors struggled to get the ball to the outside in the first half, leading to a lot of play in the middle, which helped Northeast’s attack. In the second half, Indians controlled the ball and pace of the game much better.
“We just had to start playing harder,” Meyer said. “They were pushing us around and we had to push back.”
“It got a little heated at halftime,” Longo said. “But we made a few tweaks as well. Northeast was so quick in that first half, but I told the girls this was the worst we could have played and we were still only down a goal.”
Murphy tied the game 10 minutes into the second half with a head-on shot past Mackenzie Byrnes, and the Warrior started taking higher-quality shots.
Indian Hills took its first lead of the game when Miranda Kurtt beat Byrnes from an angle, but the teams then traded goals 21 seconds apart.
A defensive breakdown allowed Northeast to tie it, and then Meyer, refreshed and rejuvenated, headed in Yui Okamoto’s long cross over Byrnes for the eventual winner.
“Maddie really responded and made an impact when we needed. Maybe she wanted to show the coach he was wrong,” Longo chuckled. “We’re a deep team, so you have to earn playing time. A lot of kids today did things that won’t show up on a stat sheet.
“Last year, when we scored first, we usually won, and when the other team scored first, we usually lost,” Longo said. “We didn’t get down on ourselves today, no one threw anyone else under the bus. We just told them to go get it.”
Indian Hills will be the second seed in the conference tournament and won’t play again until Oct. 29 in Ottumwa.