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SIOUX CITY — For the 18th time in school history, the Bishop Heelan girls soccer team is headed to state.

Crusaders senior Ashley Aesoph scored two first-half goals Monday in a 3-0 win over Unity Christian (14-6) in the Class 1A-Region 1 final at Memorial Field.

The Crusaders (14-3) will start state tournament play at 11:30 a.m. Thursday against North Polk of Alleman at the Cownie Soccer Complex in Des Moines.

“I think we put in a lot of work since last year, and we showed progress throughout the year,” Heelan coach Clark Charlestin said. “It feels very special. Second year for me, and the second year that we’re going to state. I like the effort they’ve been showing, and they’ve been very responsive to me.”

Aesoph’s first goal came in the 17th minute on an assist from junior Amber Aesoph, her sister.

Amber Aesoph, a Heelan junior, was dribbling down the left side of the pitch when she saw her older sister come up running from the middle. Amber Aesoph fed the ball to Ashley’s right foot, and from there, Ashley kicked it past Knights goalkeeper Kaelin Alons toward the upper left-hand corner of the net.

Amber Aesoph admitted that she wasn’t sure if Ashley was there when she sent the pass into the middle, but she’s glad that her sister was at the right place at the right time.

“I somehow found her in there, and she finished,” Amber Aesoph said. “We’re able to work together. When I look to cross it in, she’s always there.”

The Crusaders were able to move the ball up well against a Knights defense that had seen Heelan once this season.

Ashley Aesoph’s second goal came with 10 seconds left in the first half. Aesoph was in the box working to get a last-second goal in, but Knights senior Erin Wierenga tried to kick it out and send the match into halftime.

Wierenga missed the ball as she kicked it, and Ashley Aesoph came around Wieringa to send her shot past Alons for the insurance goal. Alons ended up with 18 saves, as the Crusaders peppered the net with 21 shots on goal and 41 total shots. 

Heelan led off the scoring with a goal by Katelyn Stanley in the 12th minute on a similar play that brought Ashley Aesoph her first score.

Amber Aesoph was coming down the left side, but this time, it was closer to the goal. She found Stanley in the middle, and even with a couple of Knights defenders around her, Stanley found the middle of the goal that put the Crusaders on the board.

Ashley Aesoph scored her 13th and 14th goals of the season, while Stanley earned her ninth. Amber Aesoph bumped her assist total on the season to three.

“I think it boosts our confidence and allows us to settle down,” said Amber Aesoph of the three first-half goals. “It allowed ourselves to play the game and work together.”

The Crusaders defense, meanwhile, didn’t let the Knights do much.

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Soccer Sergeant Bluff-Luton at Bishop Heelan
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Soccer Sergeant Bluff-Luton at Bishop Heelan
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Soccer Sergeant Bluff-Luton at Bishop Heelan
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Soccer Sergeant Bluff-Luton at Bishop Heelan
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Soccer Sergeant Bluff-Luton at Bishop Heelan

Heelan shut down the state’s all-classes leading scorer, senior Jori Bronner — who has 42 goals and 90 points — without a shot, and even held Unity to no shots on goal and two shots in the entire match.

That didn’t shock Unity co-coach Rudy Folkerts, who was even impressed with how the Crusaders’ defense locked down on his team.

“There’s no question,” Folkerts said. “Their center/sweeper (Brooklin Froehlich) ... I really, really enjoyed watching her play. That’s something to say as the opposing coach.”

Froehlich and the Heelan backline didn’t allow a goal all postseason, and let opponents take two shots on goal in the last three games.

Unity knew Heelan was going to be tough. The Crusaders beat the Knights 5-0 in an April 30 non-conference match on April 30 at Memorial Field.

“We’re marking up better, but Heelan has such good athletes that it was so hard to stay with them,” Folkerts said. “We might be marking them up correctly, and they still get away.

“We knew what we had to do, and we tried, but it wasn’t good enough,” Folkerts said. “I told the girls after the game to keep their heads up, because they played a good game.”

Both shots on goal, by the way, were by Sergeant Bluff-Luton last week in the regional semifinal where the Crusaders won 7-0.

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