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Heelan vs Unity Christian regional soccer championship

Heelan's Hannah Hutchinson (4) heads the ball in front of Unity Christian's Emily Alons during Bishop Heelan vs Unity Christian Class 1A Region 1 championship girls soccer action played Monday in Sioux City.

SIOUX CITY — Bishop Heelan High School girls soccer coach Clark Charlestin wishes his back line had gotten more attention throughout the season.

For what it’s worth, the back line has allowed the offense to play with less stress.

The Crusaders (14-3) hope the main core of Brooklin Froechlich, Dayle Bleeker, Allison Stanek, Amber Aesoph and Hannah Hutchinson will keep North Polk of Alleman off the scoreboard in a Class 1A state quarterfinal match at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at Cownie Sports Complex in Des Moines.

Heelan has held its opponents scoreless in the entire postseason and has allowed just one goal in Heelan’s last 11 matches.

“That’s one thing we haven’t talked about all season is our back line,” Charlestin said. “For one thing, Brooklin and Dayle have done an outstanding job and should have been considered all-state for the whole year. I think Brooklin, Dayle and even Amber have been very consistent all year.

“People will look at the newspaper and they’ll look at the stats,” Charlestin said. “They don’t see the things that go beyond it. For Ashley (Aesoph) to score, she will have seven, eight chances. That’s the way the game goes. For us to win the game, Brooklin, Dayle, Mary Kate (Fitzsimmons), Hannah, Amber, they have to play a perfect game for us not to get scored on.”

Neither Froelich nor Bleeker made it onto all-state, and there aren’t stats compiling what the back line has contributed to the second-seeded Crusaders heading into the state quarterfinals.

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Heelan vs Unity Christian regional soccer championship
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Heelan vs Unity Christian regional soccer championship
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Heelan vs Unity Christian regional soccer championship
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Heelan vs Unity Christian regional soccer championship
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Heelan vs Unity Christian regional soccer championship

Yet, there’s only one stat each of them aim for on a nightly basis -- a zero on the scoreboard under their opponents’ goal total.

“If we work together, and stay together and communicate strongly, then we’re a strong team,” Bleeker said. “I love having zeroes on the other team. That’s our goal, and I’m glad we can keep our goalkeeper (Fitzsimmons) with zero goals on her.”

The Crusaders have allowed just two shots on goal in their three playoff games, and both came late in their 7-0 win over Sergeant Bluff-Luton last week in the regional semifinal. They held West Sioux without a shot, and Unity Christian only had two shots on Monday.

“It shows that our entire team is working together, including our midfielders and forwards,” Bleeker said. “My teammates are some of the hardest working people I know.”

The Crusaders’ defense doesn’t pressure anything. They don’t force a pass that doesn’t need to be made.

They prefer to be patient with the ball, even when opposing forwards come charging toward them, trying to get a rare goal past them and Fitzsimmons.

“We have a lot of confidence in our back line,” Froelich said. “We just keep swinging it back. We work a lot on defense during practices.”

Froelich plays in the center and is a captain for the Crusaders.

“She’s really good at just being one of the last people there,” Fitzsimmons said. “She’s really quick. Whenever anyone else gets beat, the majority of the time, she’s there to help out. She always works hard. She’s a big voice too.”

At practice, the defense works on dropping back, swinging it across the line and making sure everyone gets a touch of the ball so that everyone feels comfortable in a given situation.

“They are disciplined and have improved a lot,” Charlestin said. “There’s a reason they have to be reliable and accountable for each other.”

Before the rest of her team showed up for practice Tuesday at Memorial Field, Fitzsimmons was doing some 1-on-1 drills with Charlestin.

She first worked on some drills with cones inside the box, then worked on kicking the ball out as far as she can so that the Crusaders can create an offensive opportunity if there is one.

With the help from the back line, Fitzsimmons has allowed only eight goals and has 50 saves. In all, the Crusaders have given up 12 goals and 57 saves. Hannah Tastad and Grace Mahaney have also played in goal for the Crusaders.

“The defense really helps a lot,” Fitzsimmons said. “They just leave me with whatever they can’t get. They get most of the saves, but it’s not written down or anything. They have the majority of things that really do matter. They should get most of the credit.

“If it wasn’t for them, the scores would be a lot different.”

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