Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | May 25, 2017

'It's sweet revenge'

By ALLAN MANDELL, LEDGER SPORTS EDITOR | Apr 24, 2017
Photo by: ALLAN MANDELL Alie Kensett goes on the attack on Thursday against Keokuk.

Fairfield sophomore forward Bryanna Popejoy dribbled the soccer ball past midfield, 10 yards from the sideline.

There was 28 minutes, 55 seconds left to play against visiting Keokuk on Thursday, and the score was tied 2-2.

Popejoy got to within 40 yards of the Keokuk net and two Chiefs were closing in on her.

“I was thinking, ‘What do I do? What do I do?’ and that’s when I saw Emma,” Popejoy said.

That would be senior forward Emma Rosner.

There are 143 Iowa squads playing soccer this season and Rosner, with 18 goals, has outscored 98 of those teams.

With Popejoy to her left, Rosner was racing straight down the middle of the field.

“I was screaming ‘Bryanna! Bryanna, I’m open,’ ” Rosner said. “Keokuk marks up our forwards very well. So to beat their defenders, you find the lanes, find the openings, and then I saw Bryanna look up and she saw the opening — and then she made this amazing pass.”

Popejoy’s 15-yard leading pass split smack through the Keokuk defense and hit Rosner’s foot in midstride.

“It felt like we were in slow motion,” Popejoy said. “And then when I saw Emma had it, I thought, ‘Emma has this, she’ll come through like she always does.’ ”

Said Rosner, “Bryanna’s pass went right between two defenders and it was a crisp, beautiful, weighted pass. Bryanna had put me in perfect position: There were no defenders in front of me.”

But there was still a goalie to beat. Chiefs keeper Aryn Kindig had posted a shutout in two of Keokuk’s four previous games, all Chief wins.

Upon receiving Popejoy’s pass, Rosner had 25 yards between her and Keokuk’s net.

The surging Rosner quickly got to within 9 yards of the goal.

Kindig, smartly so, was charging, taking an angle away from Rosner, cutting off the left side of the net. Kindig was clearly ready for a powerful blast from Rosner’s right foot.

“After a while, the opposing players know which foot you prefer to shoot with,” Rosner said. “Before today’s game, during practice, I had worked more on my left foot.

“Sometimes you have to go with your gut and, right there, before the shot, I saw I had a better angle with my left foot.”

So the right-footed Rosner sent a left-footed laser into the lower right-corner of Keokuk’s net, giving Fairfield a 3-2 lead.

“I watched Bryanna make that pass to Emma and my heart stopped,” said Trojan senior midfielder Mikaela Lunsford. “It was amazing what she and Emma were able to do.”

From there, with a one-goal lead, Lunsford and the entire Trojan defense were sensational.

Lunsford, fellow midfielder Ella Pollet, four defenders and keeper Kelsey Hollander needed to keep Keokuk off the scoreboard for close to 29 minutes — and that’s exactly what they did.

Down a goal, the Chiefs (4-0, 2-1) gambled, sending six attackers, leaving just four Chiefs back to defend.

But Lunsford and Pollet adjusted, dropping back more than usual, and both kept disrupting Keokuk from maintaining offensive rhythm.

Fairfield’s backline, center-backs Shannon Morrissey, Corynn Klehm and outside-backs Nicole Buch and Amanda Carminhato were terrific, never budging, repeatedly thwarting Keokuk offensive thrusts.

Hollander had the game of a lifetime, stopping 19 of 21 shots. More than any save, her numerous head-first dives outracing Chief forwards for loose soccer balls gave Keokuk fits — and kept igniting her teammates.

“When I looked up at the scoreboard and saw there was only 5 seconds left in the game,” said Hollander, “my eyes were watering.”

Yes, this 3-2 Fairfield victory over Keokuk was personal.

Most Trojans had tears in their eyes while exchanging hugs postgame. And then they sent an excited Hollander to climb the arena stairs and ring the Trojan Stadium bell, a traditional event after bigger-than-big victories.

“Wow,” said Hollander, “ringing that bell was so emotional.”

Last year, on May 16, Keokuk defeated Fairfield 4-3 in double-overtime, a heartbreaking loss for the Trojans. That win gave Keokuk sole possession of the 2016 Southeast Conference championship, leaving Fairfield without any piece of the conference-title pie.

So revenge was the pervading theme for the Trojans on Thursday.

“It is super sweet to beat Keokuk,” Lunsford said. “It’s sweet revenge. After this game, hardly any of their players touched our hands, and their coach threw a fit. But you know what? We won — and that’s all that matters to me.”

Keokuk tallied first on Thursday, scoring seven minutes into the game.

With 15:26 left in the half, Rosner gave junior forward Kristin Burnstedt a sweet feed, and Burnstedt made it happen from there.

Burnstedt dribbled 25 yards without a defender in front of her, stopped 10 yards from net—and delivered an on-the-mark bullet past Kindig.

“It’s extremely nerve-wracking when you’re that wide open, especially because last year against Keokuk, I had the exact same shot and missed,” Burnstedt said. “So, getting that goal? The best feeling in the world.”

The Chiefs tallied with 23 seconds left in the half and led 2-1 at the break.

Five minutes into the second half, Burnstedt made another outstanding play. She made a clean swipe from Chief forward Evylin Merydith, kept possession, then dribbled to within 13 yards of Keokuk’s goal. The slick, crafty, highly talented Burnstedt then beautifully placed that soccer ball into the lower-right corner of the net.

“I usually think ‘The best shot is a corner shot,’ ” Burnstedt said.

It should be noted Burnstedt played this game with a sore quad, sore calf — you name a muscle, it was hurting. But play on she did, and spectacularly at that.

Fairfield, currently ranked No. 12, upped its overall record to 6-0, 3-0 in conference action.

“What a game,” Burnstedt said. “Bryanna’s pass to Emma was amazing and then Emma made that shot — boom!

“I have never beaten Keokuk and that game last year was so frustrating — we scored, they scored, we scored and then they scored at the end. That’s what makes this win today so emotional for us.

“We got revenge.”

 

 

Contact Allan Mandell at 472-2116 or sports@ffledger.com

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