OTTUMWA – As if the past year hasn't produced enough challenges for the Indian Hills women's soccer team.
The past three days produced challenges no team could be prepared to overcome.
The 14th-ranked Warriors found themselves standing on the field Monday in the face of an April blizzard in the middle of a season delayed several months in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Those obstacles, however, might have been the easy to overcome considering what Indian Hills players and coaches had to mentally overcome just over 48 hours earlier in Omaha as the Warriors found themselves in the Westroads Mall on Saturday when a deadly shootout took place, resulting in one death and one injury.
Just over 48 hours later, the Warriors were back on the field together overcoming a simple one-goal deficit against the Lakers. Ashlyn Haas scored what proved to be the winning goal with 8:43 left on a pass from Bailey Wiemann after an Iowa Lakes own goal 13 minutes earlier, lifting IHCC to a 2-1 Iowa Community College Athletic Conference win that might seem almost trivial considering the life-or-death circumstances that the team was thrust into over the weekend.
"That's something you never hope to experience and certainly never want to experience again," Indian Hills head women's soccer coach Anthony Longo said. "The girls have been through a lot. I expected a little bit of a slow start. They were shaken up for sure, but we were kind of hoping they'd kind of hit the ground running and get back to doing what they know how to do and what they love to do."
Iowa Lakes, instead, got a match that played to the strength of the Lakers having gone 2-3 entering Monday allowing just eight goals in five matches while scoring just six. Scoring chances were limited throughout the first half, leaving Iowa Lakes and Indian Hills scoreless at halftime.
"They kept their pressure up throughout most of the match. We just were not able to take advantage of our opportunities," Wiemann said. "I don't think we were prepared for how fast the ball was going to move on the ground. Since it was all wet from snow, we couldn't find each other with our passes."
Elani Mears also had to deal with the cold, snowy conditions minding the net for the Warriors. Bruna Kruschewsky became just the third player this season to get a ball past Mears, lofting a shot through the snow and over Mears into the net in the 47th minute giving Iowa Lakes a 1-0 lead.
"It's always difficult in these conditions, but that's where you have to push it aside and come out strong as a team," Mears said. "That's where we struggled a bit. Our mentality wasn't quite there. We know who we are and we know what we're working for. It's a matter of coming out right from the start and playing hard as a team."
It would be quite understandable for the Warriors (5-0-1) not to be at their best mentally on Monday, playing 52 hours after being in the middle of a choatic scene inside the Westroads Mall. Just hours before their scheduled match at Iowa Western on Saturday, members of the team were shopping in different stores when 21-year-old Trequez Swift was killed and 22-year-old Ja'Keya Veland was injured in a targeted shooting that resulted in the arrest of a 16-year-old on suspicion of first-degree murder and an 18-year-old on suspicion of accessory to a felony in the homicide.
IHCC coaches and players were among the many patrons in the mall that fled the stores surrounding the shooting. After an initial lockdown, the Warriors chose to return home on Saturday and reschedule their Saturday match with Iowa Western to a later date arriving home safely on Saturday night.
"It's something that none of us expected to happen. You never expect to be put in a scary situation like that," Mears said. "I think we've all handled it pretty well. I think it's brought us closer together as a team. We're all glad to be back home together and safe."
Indian Hills caught a break on Monday on a free kick that Iowa Lakes headed into their own net trying to clear the ball, tying the match at 1-1 in the 69th minute. After making several attempts in the final 20 minutes to get a run at the net, Wiemann finally cleared her defender and pulled Laker goaltender Daina Brazier away from the net, leading to an open look for Haas off the pass from the Burlington native for what proved to be the game winner in the 82nd minute.
"It was definitely a weight lifted off our shoulders," Wiemann said. "I saw the time winding down and I saw a lot of space in front of me. I just felt like I needed to take it. That's what the coaches have been asking me to do, so I figured I'd give it a try. The goalie came out. I was able to take one touch around and find Ashlynn. It all worked out really nice."
Iowa Lakes (2-4) nearly tied the match in the final five minutes as Alexis Vasquez got a shot past Mears that hit the post. Indian Hills will have a much-needed five days off before returning to the field at Iowa Central on Saturday.
"It's just a matter of getting the girls back into their routines," Longo said. "Getting back to class will certainly help get their minds off things. They were shaken after Saturday. Credit to the girls. They came out here to compete. They did work hard.
"At the end of the day, a win is a win."
Indian Hills 2, Iowa Lakes 1
ILCC 0 1 — 1
IHCC 0 2 — 2
Iowa Lakes — Bruna Kruschewsky goal, 46:26.
Indian Hills — Own goal, 68:44.
Indian Hills — Ashlyn Haas goal (Bailey Wiemann assist), 81:17.
Iowa Lakes: Total Shots — 10 (Alexis Vasquez 3, Danielle Grimmer 2, Vanessa Hernandez 2, Melissa Fajardo, Kruschewsky, Emily MacLeod). Total Saves — 8 (Daina Brazier 6, Valentina Jiminez 2). Total Fouls — 11.
Indian Hills: Total Shots — 13 (Yui Okamoto 4, Weimann 3, Haas 2, Rachel Kaut 2, K.J. Schmidt 2). Total Saves — 6 (Elani Mears 6). Total Fouls — 7.