BURLINGTON — Fort Madison’s girls soccer team was eliminated in penalty kicks in last season’s regional semifinal.
Since then, the Bloodhounds have become masters of the PKs.
And now it’s gotten them one win from the state tournament.
Fort Madison was perfect in penalty kicks in Tuesday’s Class 2A Region 5 semifinal against Burlington, winning 3-2 (3-0) to advance to Thursday’s regional final against fourth-ranked Pella.
Mary Kate Bendlage, Teagan Snaadt and Hadley Wolfe made their penalty kicks, and goalkeeper Taylor Johnson made a key save after the first two Burlington shots missed, and the Bloodhounds celebrated beating the Southeast Conference regular-season champions who shut them out twice during the regular season.
“Oh, it means everything, especially after losing to them twice,” Johnson said. “Beating them with PKs, it’s a great feeling.”
“Burlington’s a great team. It could have gone either way, like it has all season,” Fort Madison coach Carrie Burken said.
Then she smiled when she brought up how the Bloodhounds had gone to PKs three times this season, and won them all.
“Our PK run continues,” Burken said.
Kevynn Siefken led off the penalty kicks for Burlington, but her shot went wide to the left. Bendlage hit her shot, and it was 1-0.
Josephine Blazic, who tied the match in the second half with a breakaway goal, was next for the Grayhounds. She tried the upper right corner, but her shot clanged off the right post. Snaadt delivered on her shot, and it was 2-0.
Burlington’s Lily Newell stepped up with the chance to get the Grayhounds back in it, but Johnson smothered her shot.
“It was huge,” Johnson said. “I kind of read her eyes a bit, and I knew where she was going.”
That gave the Bloodhounds three chances for the winning goal, and Wolfe made it look easy.
Wolfe had missed a scoring chance midway through the first half with Fort Madison down 1-0, and she was still thinking about that when she stepped up for her PK.
“I really wanted it because I felt bad for what happened earlier in the game,” Wolfe said. “I just wanted to go win it for my team.”
And she did, her goal touching off a wild celebration and sending the Bloodhounds (12-5) to their first regional final, a trip that has been denied the last two years, first by North Scott in 2021, and then by Clear Creek Amana last year.
“It’s as good as it gets,” Burken said. “Now we get to take another step.”
Fort Madison trailed 1-0 at halftime — Siefken gave the Grayhounds an early edge with a goal 16 ½ minutes into the match. The Bloodhounds had three good scoring chances in the half, but missed on all of them.
“During halftime, I really encouraged them,” Burken said “I said, ‘Hey, this isn’t about one individual person. It’s about doing your best to help your team succeed.’ And I thought they really did that in the second half, and started playing more unselfish.”
Fort Madison struck quickly, with Snaadt scoring just 1:20 into the second half. It was a key breakthrough moment against the Grayhounds, who blanked the Bloodhounds 1-0 and 2-0 in their two regular-season matches.
“Huge momentum swinger,” Burken said.
“We all thought, ‘Now we can do this,’” Wolfe said. “We were back in this game and we wanted to go win it.”
“It was communication,” Johnson said of the key to the second half. “We kept our energy up, didn’t get down, and kept ourselves in the game because it wasn’t over.”
Wolfe scored with 18:15 left to put Fort Madison up 2-1, but Blazic scored with 2 ½ minutes to play to force overtime.
Still, Burken liked what her team had done.
“To come back in the second half, I think that says a lot about our team,” she said. “We kind of dominated the second half, honestly. The one goal they had in the second half was really their only good chance at a goal. I was really, really pleased in the second half, getting those goals.”
Neither team scored in the two overtimes, setting up the PK session that the Bloodhounds would dominate.
“Each year, we’ve been getting a step closer,” Burken said. “So … you never know.”
“It’s an honor,” Wolfe said. “We weren’t supposed to win. But look at us now. We’re going to Pella, and hopefully win there.”