The 2016 Menace women (shown before a season-closing win on July 17 in Grimes) made positive strides. Photo credit: Joe Sprunger
How does 2016 compare to the previous four seasons of Des Moines Menace women’s soccer? Was this the best team yet?
This year’s Menace ladies dominated more often than not, and, on the last weekend of the Women’s Premier Soccer League season, they nearly accomplished the seemingly impossible. They almost dealt the defending WPSL champs their first loss in more than two years.
The Menace outscored foes 27-9 on the way to a 6-1-1 record. With the only blemishes coming against reigning champion Chicago, this start-to-finish success was a resounding rebound from a disappointing 2015 season that left the team hungry for more.
“A tremendous improvement on last year. I was really pleased with this season,” said head coach Justin Vorster.
In Vorster’s second year in charge, the Menace doubled its win total from the previous season. In 2015, Des Moines found the going rough, finishing 3-5-2 while finding the net just 13 times and conceding 16 goals.
“Last year we didn’t have that killer instinct, but this year, we had the final product. We were taking chances, finishing in front of the goal,” Vorster said. “Everybody has to take credit. It was an all-around effort, and it was all the little things that kept us in games.”
Through the team’s five seasons, only the 2012 Women’s League Soccer champs’ 7-1-0 finish eclipses this year’s mark. Not wanting to take anything away from that inaugural Menace team and its striking 41-5 scoring differential, one could argue that the WPSL (with more than 100 teams this season) provides a far more challenging level of competition than the five-team WLS did in its final season.
While this study of contrasts makes it difficult to compare teams from different leagues and years, the members of the 2016 Menace can find pride in how this year’s team came together to make the most of their opportunities.
Jordan Bishop – along with Carlan Samuelson, one of the two players who have been part of all five Menace teams – has the perspective of someone who has been a teammate to every player who has stepped on the field for the Menace women.
“Our team’s competitiveness raised the bar from previous seasons,” Bishop said of the 2016 Menace. “We had a very diverse group – a lot of experience, a lot of youth. It gave us a different energy. Everyone just worked hard for one another. Everybody stepped up.
“I think there was a greater winning attitude. Everybody wanted to win, everybody wanted to get better.”
This was on full display in an anticipated July 16 match at Valley Stadium. The Chicago Red Stars brought their reigning WPSL champion status, a perfect 6-0-0 record, and a 30-0 scoring aggregate into this rematch of a 4-0 home win over the Menace just two weeks earlier.
Less than 14 minutes into the match, the crowd erupted when a counter-attack by the Menace put a chink in Chicago’s armor. Kasey Hurt assisted Nicole “Dill” Pearson, and suddenly, the home team held a lead against a team that hadn’t allowed a goal all season.
“We were pressing, and we won it in the offensive third,” Bishop recalled. “We got the steal and laid it off to Kasey. She sent the perfect ball to Dill, and she was gusty enough to be the lone player in the box and beat her defender and the keeper to the ball.
“That goal gave us another level of confidence. Just an awesome moment. It showed we could do it.”
The Menace’s resolve carried the lead into halftime and even into the final 20 minutes of regulation. Alas, the Red Stars Reserves equalized in the 71st minute, just moments after they dodged a bullet when Elise Reid’s floater of a shot fluttered just wide of a goal left unattended by Chicago’s keeper.
In the eyes of many, that 1-1 draw will stand as the high point of a Menace season full of highlights.
“It was huge,” Vorster said of the near-upset. “The confidence within the team was on a high going into the game; we came in prepared. We got the early goal and the players played a very disciplined role and trusted each other. It showed the character of this squad.”
Vorster reflected on this season, “I tell you what, I thoroughly enjoyed working with this group. I looked forward to training every day. I loved it. Hopefully we can keep this going for next season.”
Some of the storylines from the 2016 Menace WPSL team that finished second in the Heartland Region…
SISTER ACT 2
The Menace’s roster featured siblings for the second straight season. A year after Ashlie and Chelsie Stokes played together, Mary and Sarah Brandt – Ankeny natives and Northern Iowa teammates – formed a dynamic sister duo for the Menace. Sarah collected a pair of goals in WPSL action; Mary scored the game-winner in a 2-1 victory at Kansas City on July 10.
KIND OF A BIG DILL
Nicole Pearson’s goal in the July 16 tie was the only goal allowed by the Chicago Red Stars Reserves in the 2016 season. The defending WPSL champs rocked and rolled to a 41-1 scoring advantage, going 7-0-1 on the way to a postseason run that ended with a semifinal loss to eventual champ Boston. Pearson – whose “Dill” nickname comes from her maiden name of Dillenberg – has scored seven goals in three Menace seasons. She collected a pair of goals in each of the previous two seasons, and she bagged a brace in a win at Quad City to open 2016.
BRIDE OF THE MENACE
Fifth-year Menace mainstay Jordan Bishop seemed to play her best soccer after becoming a newlywed. A couple weeks after tying the knot with Kyle McMahon, she tied up a July 10 match that the Menace won, 2-1, at Kansas City. A week later, she scored a pair of first-half goals in a 4-2, come-from-behind, season-finale win over Minnesota.
A FOUR-NILL-YER RESULT
Each of the Menace’s first four matches ended with a 4-0 score. Des Moines opened with decisive wins over Quad City, Kansas City and Minnesota before finishing on the short end of a four-goal shutout at Chicago on July 2.
ANOTHER GOLDEN BOOT FOR PUDDY’S FOOT
For the second straight year, Danielle Puddefoot led the team in scoring. With five goals this season, she one-upped her total from 2015. A hat trick in a 9-0 exhibition against the WSA North Stars on June 25 does not count toward the season stats for Puddefoot, who, between Menace seasons, played for Queens Park Rangers FC in her native England.
Former pro Whitney Sharpe was a sparkplug in her third season with the Menace. The fan favorite showed brilliance each time she stepped on her former high-school field, and she shined with a hat trick in an 8-1 home win over Quad City on July 9.
A RIO GOOD OPPORTUNITY
Upon returning to Des Moines in early May, Kaylin Swart was all set for her third season in goal for the Menace. Then she received an offer too good to pass up: an invitation to represent her native South Africa in the 2016 Olympics. Brazil-bound Swart’s swift departure opened the door for Menace ‘keepers Nicole Inskeep and Haley Morris. With the help of an airtight defense, they answered in a big way, combining for a 1.11 Goals Against Average.
INTERSTATE-80 DERBY DEMOLITION
The Menace dominated in-state rival Quad City in 2016. Des Moines opened with a 4-0 win in Davenport on May 27, and the Menace had its way in the late-season rematch. The Eagles arrived at Valley Stadium with only 10 players on July 9, and the Menace struck early and often in an 8-1 landslide. Staking its claim as the state’s top women’s team, Des Moines has outscored Quad City 18-2 in the last three matchups of this I-80 Derby.
2016 FINAL RESULTS (6-1-1 WPSL: 3-0-1 home; 3-1-0 away)
Friday, May 27 at Quad City Eagles W, 4-0
Saturday, June 4 Kansas City Courage W, 4-0
Saturday, June 11 at Minnesota TwinStars W, 4-0
Friday, June 24 ^ WSA Winnipeg W, 5-0
Saturday, June 25 ^ WSA Winnipeg W, 9-0
Saturday, July 2 at Chicago Red Stars Reserves L, 0-4
Saturday, July 9 Quad City Eagles W, 8-1
Sunday, July 10 at Kansas City Courage W, 2-1
Saturday, July 16 Chicago Red Stars Reserves T, 1-1
Sunday, July 17 Minnesota TwinStars W, 4-2
^ = Exhibition
ABOUT THE MENACE: The Des Moines Menace provides the highest level of soccer in Iowa. The Menace women’s team is part of the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL), and the Menace men’s team competes in the Premier Development League (PDL). With loyal support, the Menace men’s and women’s teams play their home games at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines to provide family fun entertainment. The Menace organization provides the growth of the game of soccer in Iowa with their youth soccer programs including Junior Menace (ages 3-9), Menace Youth Academy (ages six and older), camps, clinics and tournaments.
FOLLOW THE MENACE: