A two-year offseason is finally over

By Paul D. Bowker
Posted 4/14/21

Emily Swartzentruber’s screaming voice echoed around the North Liberty High School stadium one night last week.


Swartzentruber, a senior goalkeeper for Mid-Prairie High …

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A two-year offseason is finally over


Emily Swartzentruber’s screaming voice echoed around the North Liberty High School stadium one night last week.


Swartzentruber, a senior goalkeeper for Mid-Prairie High School’s girls soccer team, had waited way longer than a year for this moment. The Covid-19 pandemic claimed the entire 2020 season. Swartzentruber and 2021 senior teammates Emma Slaubaugh and Katrina Curtiss lost their junior seasons.

On the night of April 6, the Golden Hawks, who had won 10 games two years ago, made their season debut at North Liberty with Swartzentruber barking instructions from her goalkeeping spot and masked fans from both teams situated on bleachers on opposite sides. There is no minimizing how important this night was for a sport completely forgotten a year ago.

“Yeah, it was great to be able to play soccer again after almost two years,” said Mid-Prairie head coach Justin Barthelman. 

“Most of the girls on the team were freshmen and sophomores, and now they are juniors and seniors. It was tough to miss last season coming off a great year at 10-4 and having three seniors miss their last season, which should have been a better one than the year before.”

Last year’s season is one of the unknowns a pandemic will never answer. It’s gone.

The Golden Hawks fell behind 4-0 early in their game at North Liberty, and lost 6-1, playing stronger as the game went on. Three nights later, they blanked Monticello, 10-0, perhaps showing the promise of a memorable season still to be played.

Kaitlin Martin, a junior, scored once against North Liberty and twice against Monticello. Esther Hughes, a junior from Hillcrest Academy who is playing soccer for the Golden Hawks, scored four times against Monticello.

“We need to work harder and compete harder because teams are going to come at us with their best,” Barthelman said. “It should be a fun year and this is a great group of girls to coach.”

The Mid-Prairie boys also opened their season on April 6, and to say the coach was counting the days on a calendar would be understating the magical night.

“It had been 687 days since my squad last played a high school game of soccer,” head coach Pat Cady said.

Nearly 700 days. Imagine that.

“We had kids playing their first games on a high school pitch as sophomores because they didn’t get a freshman season,” Cady said. “Playing everyone on the pitch and getting solid wins for both varsity and JV, after what they have waited and have gone through was well deserved.”

The Golden Hawks won the varsity match by a score of 3-0 and drilled Monticello 7-1 later in the week.

So, yes, high school soccer has arrived after a very long wait. Both the Mid-Prairie boys and girls teams were to play their home openers on Tuesday night against Tipton at the Wellman Rotary Soccer Fields.

The time lost was precious, not just in terms of games but also the training time.

The Mid-Prairie girls were positioned a year ago to post their first back-to-back double-digit win seasons since 2017 and 2018. They not only lost a season of games, but a season of training.

“It’s been a hard first couple of weeks getting back into things and playing soccer again,” Barthelman said. “Losing that year of development has slowed us down a bit. This group works hard and we will get back in the feel of things. The offseason was just a little bit longer this time around and we weren’t able to get together and just get touches on the ball.”

Yeah, that’s an offseason of more than 600 days.

Welcome back.


Paul Bowker can be reached at bowkerpaul1@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter:  @bowkerpaul.


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