NORTH SIOUX CITY — Whenever the Dakota Valley High School girls soccer team needed a hero this season, goalkeeper Ivey Winckler was there to save the day.
This past week, Winckler boosted her team to new heights with a pair of postseason wins.
Winckler held Groton to zero goals on Tuesday in a 1-0 Class A state quarterfinals victory, then followed that up with a big performance in the Panthers’ 1-0 victory over Tea in the semifinals.
Winckler stopped what would’ve been a winning Titans goal from going in, and then sent the Panthers to the state title game by scoring the winning goal.
For her season-saving performance on the big stage, Winckler has been selected as The Journal’s Metro Athlete of the Week.
The Panthers’ senior has been the team’s goalie since her eighth grade year, which spans the program’s entire existence
After getting sanctioned in 2017, the team didn’t win a single game in its first two seasons.
Dakota Valley coach Jesse Castillo said that Winckler was still proving herself to be a standout goalie.
“She would be the leading goalkeeper in saves in the last five years if we would’ve kept those stats,” Dakota Valley head coach Jesse Castillo said. “Because remember, the first two years, we didn’t win anything. There was like 25 saves every game. You multiply that by 10, that’s 250 saves. That's a lot of saves.
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“She has been consistent every year, and every year we’ve gotten better, but she has always been that backbone, and the biggest position that we have.”
Before this season, the Panthers never won more than five games.
Now, the Panthers are 10-3-3, with a chance to possibly take home a state title trophy. According to Castillo, Winckler has been one of the main reasons for the team’s record-breaking year.
“I’ve coached girls soccer for 10 years now and goalkeeper is the most important position in girls soccer, because they’re the biggest difference makers,” Castillo said. “You can have a team that doesn’t play as well, but your goalkeeper keeps you comfortable. That is peace of mind for me. Every time I see that she is in the goal, that for me is a position that I don’t worry too much about.”
Castillo has known Winckler for a long time. They first met when Castillo was her coach with the TriState Revolution U11 club soccer team.
Since then, Castillo has also been a coach at Sioux City North and South Sioux City.
“It was fun coaching her,” Castillo said. “She was 10 years old, and it’s funny because I coach at Sioux City North too, but I play against players that I coach, and it’s kind of nice to see them. Now they’re 18, and I met them eight years ago when they were just starting out. That is kind of unique, and kind of fun.”
Winckler has been playing soccer since she was three years old, but she became a goalie in third grade, when a teammate of hers was injured during an indoor soccer game.
She was one of the only members of the team who hadn’t gotten to play the position, so the coaches put her between the posts.
The rest is history.
“They were like ‘Who hasn’t gone in goal yet?'” Winckler said. “They stuck me in there and I was good, and I never got pulled out.”
There is a lot that goes into becoming an elite goalie, and Winckler gives full credit for her success to her goalie coach, Gabe Wortman, who has been working with her since childhood.
“He has been working with me since seventh grade, maybe earlier than that,” Winckler said. “But he has always helped me to get better. He has worked with me one-on-one, he has worked with me in groups, and he has always helped me. If I mess up on one of them, he helps me get back up and get better at the next one.”
After her senior year is done, Winckler is hoping to continue her career at the college level. She hasn’t signed with any school or committed to a program, but is hoping to attend Anderson University in South Carolina, where she can play Division II soccer and major in Cyber Security.
Winckler has come a long way since that fateful indoor game all those years ago.
In the regular season, she led South Dakota Class A soccer with 129 saves in the regular season, and finished the year with a 90.8 save percentage. Her accomplishments have left her coaches and teammates in awe.
“She is not afraid to put her body on the line for anything,” Dakota Valley senior Grace Bass said. “She is, in my opinion, the best goalie in the state. She’s so good. She saved us in a lot of games, and without her, we would not be where we are right now.”
Cole Ritchie, East football: Ritchie played as a back-up quarterback for the Black Raiders in a 51-7 win over Des Moines East. The junior completed all three passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns.
Schuyler Warren, SB-L golf: Warren qualified for the state golf meet last week with a runner-up finish at regionals, then he finished 18th at the state golf meet in Cedar Falls over the weekend.