Iowa City Alliance Heatwave (IA) made history at the 2013 US Youth Soccer Region II Championships, when they became the first team from Iowa to qualify to the US Youth Soccer National Championships. Heatwave qualified in the Under-17 Girls age group with a 3-1 overtime victory over Academy United 95/96 (IL) in the finals.
"The feeling was fantastic. I was so excited for the girls and myself," said Iowa City Alliance Head Coach, Paul Dayrell. "It was a great emotional feeling, and I am just so proud of my team."
While some teams may feel some pressure in being the first club in their state to play in the National Championships, Dayrell explains why he thinks the pressure will actually be on their opponents.
"I think being the first team from Iowa, our opponents will see where we are from and think it will be an easy win," said Dayrell. "If they think that, they are definitely going to be in for a shock, because I think this team can beat anyone in the nation on their day."
This year, Iowa City qualified for their third Region II Championship. In their first trip, Iowa City lost all three games, and last year Heatwave went 1-1-1. This year Iowa City won all five games while scoring 15 goals and only surrendering four.
"This year was such a different experience than our first year," said Dayrell. "At our first Regional Championship I thought we competed in two of the three games, but we lost all of them. Over the three years I think we have made positive steps and incrementally got better. The experience of the two previous years really helped us this year."
One big reason why Iowa City was able to break through this year was the performance of striker Rose Ripslinger. Ripslinger’s nine goals were four more than any other player in her age group. The three-time Gatorade Iowa Girls Soccer Player of the Year saved her best performance for the finals, when she netted the overtime game winner and an insurance goal 13 minutes later to ensure Heatwave’s victory.
"I think our team’s overall level has really allowed her to be special player. She has made leaps and bounds over the last couple of years," said Dayrell. "I think it would be hard to find a better forward than her in the region, and I think there are big things ahead for her."
While the National Championships presents a level of competition unseen to Iowa before, Dayrell explains that the team isn’t planning on making a lot of changes.
"With the way that we play, I don’t think we will make any adjustments," said Dayrell. We won’t prepare differently, and the girls will be just as goofy before games as they usually are."
Dayrell admits that there is a tough road ahead for his team, but in the end, Iowa City won’t be doing all of this alone.
"The support we have received has been phenomenal. The competition has been pretty fierce amongst each other, but once that’s over we have received support from all corners of the state," said Dayrell. "We are extremely proud to be the first team from Iowa. The history and significance is not lost on us, and we hope to do Iowa proud."