Panorama’s valiant backline couldn’t quite contain the slowly building North Polk offense last week in their regional soccer tilt.
The Comets eventually broke free of a scoreless halftime tie to punch in four second half goals – including two within a two minute span – claiming a 4-0 victory May 31 in a Class 1A regional semifinal in Alleman.
One of the top defensive teams in the state flexed its muscles, securing their fourth consecutive clean sheet.
PHS (11-6) was shut out for the fifth time this year. All but one of their six losses came when they were held without a goal. North Polk (15-4) has only allowed 10 goals all season including just a single goal in their last eight games combined.
The Panthers defense came to play as well in the first half, implementing an electric version of the bend-but-don’t break scheme, scrambling for a handful of miraculous saves throughout the opening 40 minutes, packing their defense tightly into the box.
Panorama goalkeeper Ashley Clark was the star of the first half, turning back several North Polk shot attempts and generally disrupting their offensive flow. She came up with a pair of huge saves within 30 seconds of each other late in the period, preserving the momentary shutout.
Panorama’s hopes of upsetting the eighth-ranked Comets quickly came to a screeching halt early in the second half, as North Polk’s Katryn Halterman snuck a low screecher past Clark for the game’s first goal, just three minutes into the final frame. North Polk remained on the attack a mere 60 seconds later before a pair of PHS defenders kicked away a bouncing loose ball in front of an empty net. The Comets refused to relent, opening room for Katie Berglund to give the Comets a 2-0 lead just four minutes after the game’s first goal, scoring on a slow roller. North Polk had finally found an antidote to Panorama’s defense, poised to exploit. Berglund added her second goal of the night on a header off a corner kick with 24 minutes to play, giving the Comets a 3-0 lead. North Polk came away with a staggering 12 corner kicks, continually pressing the PHS goal line. Halterman capped the scoring with 13 minutes to play, converting on a penalty kick, her second goal of the night, closing the door on the 4-0 victory.
North Polk’s defense tightened even more in the second half, rarely letting the lethal Panther forwards to break free over the final 40 minutes.
The Comets went on to man-handle Des Moines Christian in the 1A regional final Monday night, punching their ticket to state with a 5-0 victory.
The Panthers were riding high heading into the North Polk match, coming off a thrilling overtime victory over Creston, 3-2 two days prior in the first round of regional play. The two squads were deadlocked at two before the Panthers scored a golden goal just six minutes into the first overtime.
Paige Cmelik secured two goals while sister Audrey Cmelik scored a goal as well. PHS came away with 21 shots in their regional victory while Creston converted on two of their four shots on goal.
The Panthers finished the year ranked eighth in 1A in scoring thanks to 72 goals scored, an average of 4.2 goals per game.
PHS won double digit games in back-to-back years, as the Panthers have amassed 23 wins in their first two years of existence. Panorama has scored a remarkable 155 goals over that span, an average of 4.5 goals per contest.
Panorama was led by a well-balanced offensive attack, powered by four girls scoring at least 10 times this spring. Ella Waddle tallied a team-high 23 goals (15th in 1A) while Audrey Cmelik chipped in 16 of her own. Paige Cmelik recorded 13 goals and 10 assists in addition to Laci Rishel’s 10 scores. Jaelyn Waddle led the team in assists, tallying 14 helpers, which was tied for the 10th best mark in Class 1A. The Panthers as a team assisted on 50 of their 72 goals, the sixth best mark in all of 1A.
Clark produced 75 saves in 16 games, a save percentage of 82.4 percent. The senior maintained a 1.31 goals against average. As a team, the Panthers gave up just 22 goals, an average of 1.5 goals against per game.