FM girls push Burlington for conference title

Lady Hounds beat Grayhounds to tie the Southeast with one game left


FORT MADISON – Fort Madison’s girls soccer team put itself into position to win a share, and maybe the outright, Southeast Conference title.
Thursday’s 3-2 win over conference leader Burlington High School at the Baxter Sports Complex put the Bloodhounds and the Grayhounds into a tie for the conference lead heading into Monday’s final matches of league play.
Coree James had two goals and Natalie Randolph had one for the Bloodhounds, then keeper Taylor Johnson came up with the biggest save of the night with three minutes to play to preserve the win.
“It is a pretty big win,” Fort Madison coach Carrie Burken said. “I know Burlington was missing a few girls because of district track. That said, you still have to come and do the job. And we did that. We came out, and I’m really proud of the adjustments we made and the effort we put in.”
It was the sixth consecutive win for the Bloodhounds (9-2 overall, 8-1 conference), who were short-handed as well with the loss of Mary Kate Bendlage, their top defender, who suffered an ankle sprain late in Monday’s win at Keokuk.
That forced Burken to adjust her defense, with Irelynd Sargent, Bailey Vaughn and Naomi Ramatowski playing in different areas.
“It’s different because even if you’re playing the same position, you’re playing next to a different person,” Burken said.
The Bloodhounds’ defense, though, kept the Grayhounds (9-2, 8-1) bottled up for most of the match.
Burlington opened the scoring 3 1/2 minutes into the match when Josephine Blazic scored when Johnson mishandled a shot from the outside.
Fort Madison tied the match with 19:47 to play in the half. James’ shot was slowed by BHS keeper Jenna Hentzel, who lost control of the ball as she fell to the grass. James raced to the loose ball and scored in the open net.
The Bloodhounds then put on the offensive pressure to start the second half. They had three shots on one possession, but couldn’t score, and James and Teagan Snaadt each had shots that went wide.
But Fort Madison finally broke the tie on a breakaway, and James got around Hentzel for an easy score with 15:57 to play.
James had another opportunity 30 seconds later, but her shot hit the left post. Randolph was there for the rebound and the goal, and Fort Madison led 3-1.
“We talked about in the first half, and at halftime, all you have to do is put the ball in the space, in front of our forwards in the middle, and they can score,” Burken said. “And that’s how we scored every single one of our goals.
“Those were the adjustments we had to make. This time we knew our speed could beat theirs. It’s just about making those adjustments.”
Burlington got to within 3-2 with 13:31 to play on Myah Rehman’s goal, then Johnson came up big late.
Blazic broke loose down the middle, but Johnson was able to smother her shot, ending the Grayhounds’ best opportunity to tie the match.
“That was huge,” Burken said. “Huge, huge play. If we would have had to go into overtime, then who knows what happens. Taylor being there, being steady, going to get it — that’s what Taylor does. As a goalie, she goes and gets it.”
Fort Madison plays host to Mount Pleasant on Monday, while Burlington is at home against Washington.
“It’s a big deal,” Burken said. “We’ve never won conference before. But just doing really well in the conference — we’ve only lost one conference game — that’s big, too.
“The willingness to make adjustments, the willingness to work with one another, talk with one another, has been really big. We’re still a pretty young team, but we’re working well together. It’s not always pretty. But we’re getting the job done, and that’s all you can ask.”

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