ELDRIDGE — In the last six years, the North Scott girls soccer program has claimed its place among the top teams in eastern Iowa.
The Lancers have made the last six state tournaments and won a Class 2A state title back in 2014.
Defense has been a key to this run and North Scott back lines have left their marks with physical and stingy play.
Brenna Kundel understands that legacy and wants to see it continue.
"It’s about not letting those past defensive lines down," the senior defender said. "You don’t want to ruin that reputation."
Kundel is wrapping up her senior season after emerging as one of the top defenders in the Mississippi Athletic Conference last year.
She earned first team all-conference and all-state honors from the Iowa Girls Soccer Coaches Association as the Lancers advanced to the state semifinals. With the postseason two weeks away, Kundel is hoping to end her career with a state championship.
"She represents what our program represents — hard-nosed, get after it, physical but clean soccer," head coach Dion Ayers said. "She understands where this program was a long time ago and what it’s grown into.
"In my 17 years, she’s been one of my most favorite players just because of where she started, where she’s gone and never a bad attitude."
Hard work was part of growing up for Kundel, who grew up on a farm and started playing soccer when she was 5. She cited her father, Kevin, as one of her biggest influences and key to her growth as an individual.
"My dad’s always told me, if you work hard, good things will come," Kundel said. "I didn’t work on the farm as much as I would have liked and probably not as much as my dad would have liked, but the times I did get to help out, just being there to give him a hand, I was always there and always had to help him out when I could.
"He’s been really influential and I look up to him and want to make him proud."
When she joined the Lancers, Kundel played midfield until her sophomore year when the coaching staff opted to move her to the back line, where she could set the tone physically.
"Once we did that, then it was just about her confidence," Ayers said. "You name every question she could have asked, she was doing that but it was like a sponge. By the end of her sophomore year, you could see the confidence growing."
In her junior year, Kundel took the next step.
Strong on the ball and confident in the air, Kundel led the way as the Lancers allowed just three conference goals en route to a conference championship.
Even she was surprised with the end result. She became the fourth Lancer defender in the last four seasons to earn first team all-state honors.
"I didn't even realize I was playing to that caliber," Kundel said. "I was just playing to the best of my ability, trying not to make it too hard on my keeper and my fellow defenders. I just played hard and had the mindset that I can't let anything by me."
Defense is once again the key this season for North Scott, which is 9-5 and ranked sixth in Class 2A. After graduating their three top scorers, the Lancers have had a few ups and downs offensively but continue to be stingy, allowing 10 goals in 14 games, two in conference play heading into tonight's matchup against Pleasant Valley.
"I think that defense as a whole has been working really well and we’re making connections in the back. I feel like if you have strong back it radiates forward," said Kundel, who added her first two varsity goals as well this season. "I think we definitely are improving from the beginning of the season everywhere. There are still a few holes, but I think we can fix that. We’ve just got to keep trying and never give up, on and off the field."
This final month might be the last of competitive soccer for Kundel, who will enroll at Iowa State in the fall.
With the interest of a few small colleges to continue playing soccer, Kundel — who has battled injury — opted to become a Cyclone, even at the expense of her playing career.
"My whole life I've wanted to go to Iowa State because of my dad," Kundel said. "It was always a dream to play for Iowa State. Lately I've been thinking about walking on, but I think for my future it's better to stay with intramurals or club."
That adds an extra drive for this final month.
"I don't want to look back and think I could have done this better or should have done that instead," Kundel said. "So I'm going all out and hopefully it shows in the end."