Aug. 20—OTTUMWA — Ulysus Torres had one eye on the field and one eye on the skies above the Indian Hills campus on Friday afternoon.
"I'm just happy we were able to play the game," Torres said. "We spent a lot of time since (Thursday) morning trying to sort things out preparing for the worst. Fortunately, Mother Nature was on our side."
Mother Nature and a friendly crossbar helped Torres win his debut as head coach of the Indian Hills women's soccer team. Mifumi Sasanuma's goal in the 15th minute held up as the winner for the 17th-ranked Warriors, who held off a second-half charge by Johnson County to take a 1-0 season-opener in the IHCC Classic.
"I knew this was going to be a tough game coming in. The girls have had to overcome a lot over the past 24 hours. I would have been proud of them. They believed in each other and dug deep. I would have been proud of them no matter how the final result would have ended up."
Johnson County (0-1) did their best to rally for the win, finishing with a 10-6 edge in shots. The Cavaliers nearly scored the first goal of the game as Megan Everhart missed a wide open net from 30 yards away on a shot that drifted high and wide in the opening minutes.
It would not be the last time the Warrior defense was challenged. Johnson County took seven of the 10 shots fired by the two teams in the first half, testing IHCC freshman goalie Sara Cogoli throughout the match.
Cogoli faced down the challenge, making three saves in the first half to keep the Cavaliers off the scoreboard in her first start after battling Warrior teammates Teagan Hall and Catherine Freeman to earn the start in goal.
"All three of our goalkeepers have been competitive. The training has been at a really high level between all three," Torres said. "All the girls are eager to get their fair chances in the net. Sara did a great job with her decision-making. Johnson County is very aggressive and they'll shoot the ball on site, but I thought Sara played an excellent, aggressive game."
In front of Cogoli, the Warrior defense made things tough on the Cavaliers to get more shots off in search of a tying goal. Abbie Bailey, a returning sophomore captain, played all 90 minutes in humid conditions eventually limping off the field with cramps after the match came to an end.
"The conditions were pretty hot, but given that we're a newly-formed team, we gave it our all," Bailey said. "Mifumi had a great goal early in the match. We've still got some things to work on, but that will come with time. As defenders, we just tried to move the ball forward. Most of the time, it was coming back to us. We just had to stay on our toes."
Johnson County seemed poised to finally break through as a run by Everhart drew a penalty on the Warriors with 28 minutes left. Darrian Gordon took the penalty kick, nailing a shot high that deflected off the inside of the goal post staying outside the net.
It would be the first of two times the Cavaliers would be robbed by the post. Riley Porter dribbled inside the box in the final 10 minutes and fired over the head of Cogoli, but the post again stopped the shot from going into the net preserving IHCC's one-goal lead.
"That should be a hashtag," Bailey joked. "#goodluckcrossbar. That should definitely be our hashtag."
Both Johnson County and No. 17 Indian Hills will face Illinois Central this weekend as the IHCC Classic continues. After facing Johnson County on Saturday, Illinois Central will battle the Warriors on Sunday at approximately 3:30 p.m.
— Scott Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.