FM girls one short in regionals

Burlington wins another close one with Bloodhounds in regional semis.


BURLINGTON — Natalie Randolph held her knee brace for the last time.
It’s been a companion all through her senior season as she recovered from a torn ACL, with her through Holy Trinity’s run to the Class 1A state championship match in volleyball, through a 20-win season and a spot in the 1A regional semifinal with the Crusaders in basketball, and now through a full season of soccer at Fort Madison in which she tied for second on the team with 21 goals.
She took the brace off for the final time after the Bloodhounds’ 2-1 loss to Burlington in Wednesday’s Class 2A regional semifinal at Bracewell Stadium.
“It definitely isn’t real yet,” Randolph said about the end of her high school career.
Irelynd Sargent felt the same way. She, too, was coming back from a knee injury that cost her a soccer season last year, but she was back in time to play basketball for the Bloodhounds and one final soccer season.
“It felt really good,” Sargent said. “When I was hurt, I was always thinking sports, sports, sports, because I’ve always been involved in sports. So being back was a big relief.”
The frustration of losing to the Bloodhounds’ biggest rival — three of Fort Madison’s four losses this season were to the Grayhounds — was evident. But Randolph and Sargent knew nothing was left behind.
“A great team, a great rival,” Randolph said. “We knew it was going to be a fight. We came in here tonight, and I thought we played well as a team.”
“It was a good season overall,” Sargent said. “We played incredible tonight, in my opinion.”
Fort Madison coach Carrie Burken agreed.
“I was happy with how we played,” she said. “I thought we played as well as we had all season.”
The Bloodhounds (11-4) fell behind 2-0 after goals by Hunter Pender at the 19:25 mark and 12:33 mark of the first half, then got some momentum back after a goal from Hadley Wolfe off a corner kick from Halle Menke that couldn’t have been executed any better.
“That corner goal was amazing,” Sargent said. “We had been practicing that.”
“They got their two right at the beginning, which really kicked us a little bit,” Randolph said. “But our goal definitely gave us some motivation. Being down one goal instead of two is completely different.”
The search for an equalizer, though, proved elusive, although the Bloodhounds had second-half chances. Wolfe had a shot go over the crossbar with seven minutes to play, and Randolph had her shot with 3:17 to go smothered by Burlington goalkeeper Jenna Hentzel.
“They converted one more chance than we did,” Burken said. “But our games with them have always been close all season, and we knew this one was going to be close.”
Burlington (14-2), the Southeast Conference regular-season champion, advanced to play at Iowa City Liberty in Thursday’s regional final.
Fort Madison loses six seniors — Randolph, Sargent, goalkeeper Taylor Johnson, midfielder Jenna Hellman, midfielder Olivia Kraus and midfielder Paetyn Wiegand. But the Bloodhounds bring back Wolfe, who led the team with 23 goals, as well as Teagan Snaadt, who had 21. Menke, who played a big midfield role, also returns.
“We had so many kids step up as leaders this season, even if they weren’t captains,” Burken said. “That was so good to see. We have a lot of really good freshmen who are going to get even better. I learned about how good this team can be as we learn and grow, and that’s exciting.”
Randolph knew the knee brace could go into retirement.
“It’s definitely going to be weird,” she said. “I’m not going to need this everywhere I go, 24-7, which is going to be nice.
“But I’m going to miss playing.”

Fort Madison, soccer, girls, Lady Hounds, Burlington, Grayhounds, Bloodhounds, regional, 2A, IGHSAU, Lee County, Iowa, sports, Bracewell Stadium, seniors, loss, Pen City Current,


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