MUSCATINE — Alina Steffen was getting tailed everywhere she went Tuesday night.
The Bettendorf senior forward, who scored 17 goals last season as a junior, was man-marked by Muscatine on Tuesday night when the teams met in an early-season Mississippi Athletic Conference showdown at the Muscatine Soccer Complex.
Early on, the strategy worked for the Class 3A No. 10 Muskies, who built a 1-0 lead and were tied at 1 at the break despite giving up just one shot on goal.
That all changed in the second half as Steffen, who scored two goals, including the tie-breaking tally in the 64th minute, and her teammates broke free to earn a 3-2 victory.
“We got the feel of the game,” Steffen said of what changed after halftime. “In the first half, we weren’t really prepared. And then I think we just came out stronger, starting connecting our passes.”
Muscatine had other opportunities to take the lead before Trinity Christy converted in the box in the 28th minute, none bigger than Tessa Kerr’s free kick from just outside the 18-yard box that hit under the crossbar but didn’t find net.
Still, the Bulldogs were tied at the half because freshman Olivia Lewis corralled a ball in the box and fired it in the back of the net in the 32nd minute, the Bulldogs only shot on goal over the first 40 minutes.
Even as Bettendorf (4-0, 2-0 MAC) started to find its legs in the second half, the Muskies (2-1, 1-1) nearly found the go-ahead goal early in the second half when a Christy shot bounced off the post.
Muscatine wasn’t able to find many chances after that, though.
“We did a nice job of pressuring them, picking our spots where we would make the tackle, winning 50/50 balls,” Bettendorf coach Todd Hornaday said. “The key was we got stronger as the game went on.”
Steffen started to find some room in the second half, including when she got to another ball in the box in the 64th minute and was able to put it in the back of the net in traffic for the go-ahead goal.
“It just bounced out probably around the penalty marker, and I just hit it in,” Steffen said. “I could barely find a slot but it went in.”
Steffen added the final blow late, finishing a Katie Byrne free kick with her head to give the Bulldogs a 3-1 lead in the 77th minute. Muscatine added its second goal on a penalty kick after the horn sounded.
“Big-time performance out of Alina Steffen,” Hornaday said. “That’s what you want out of your all-state, returning senior players.”
Shorthanded, including without senior Paige Wagner, who will play for the first time this season Thursday at Burlington, the Bulldogs finished strong.
“I thought maybe out fitness level showed off at the end,” Hornaday said. “… We’ve had a very tough early-season schedule. I thought that showed off late. We got a couple lucky bounces and a couple super-nice goals. A very physical game, a very aggressive game but every time these two teams meet up I think that’s kind of the case.”