North Scott and Iowa City West have both learned over the years that rankings in April don't mean much when it comes to June.
The two programs, who have been fixtures at the state tournament, met in a ranked match Thursday that ended with the Class 3A No. 3 Women of Troy handing the Class 2A top-ranked Lancers a 2-1 loss at The Pitch.
It was a great learning experience for the Lancers as they deal with some high expectations.
"Facing a team like that, they're just really good on the ball and moving the ball around with quick 1-2 passes," senior Karli Rucker said. "I think it helped our defending, just staying in front of the girl and keep them in front of us. Playing hard the whole game, it was really good to start out with a team like that, just to see where we're at and where we need to work on things."
The Women of Troy (2-0) got two goals from Northwestern commit Regan Steigleder, the first coming in the 19th minute when she took a through ball from Madi Barta and raced past the North Scott defense for a clean look on goal. Steigleder buried her second in the 65th minute.
"Props to her. If you want to see a good soccer player, come out and watch her because she can do it all," Rucker said. "We lost her a couple times and that's when she can attack and split through people just like that. She's quick and has good foot skills."
The Lancers (1-1) played right with the Women of Troy for the first 20 minutes, then last year's Class 3A runners-up took over control of possession into the second half, before North Scott regained its footing in the final 15 minutes and Adelyn Carmody scored in the 80th minute.
"The last 15 minutes were probably our best. We were getting mad and wanted to come back and not leave with a shutout," Carmody said. "We lost communication (in the middle of the match). We were letting our guard down and getting a little mad about the score and letting that get to us and not thinking it was 0-0 like we need to all the time. Once we got our momentum up it improved a lot."
The constant pressure of North Scott, particularly in the first and last 20 minutes, made a distinct impression on Iowa City West coach Dave Rosenthal.
"They're making us play early, they're making us take bad touches and when you have a team that pressures us like that, it forces us to really pick up our game," he said. "When they pressure, I think that's going to turn into a lot of successes for them against teams at the highest levels because it forces you to think quicker."
But it's only April, and the Lancers know there's much to work on if they want to be playing once again in Des Moines. They'll get another tough test Monday when they face Class 1A No. 1 and defending state champion Davenport Assumption.
The level of improvement shown in Thursday's game was a good sign moving forward.
"I was pleased," head coach Dion Ayers. "Some of our youth is getting confidence ... I think late in the game we started to get a little offense going which is a good thing because we've been struggling with holding the ball too long and we need to make quicker decisions ... I thought as the game grew, we were growing, we were getting more stable.
"Assumption is going to be a different beast because they play very direct and love to use their speed where West loves to play underneath and play a total possession game. It's going to be two different games but as long as we can keep pinching and keeping our defense solid we'll be all right."
Burlington 2, North Scott 0: After upsetting Class 3A sixth-ranked Pleasant Valley on Tuesday, Burlington made it two conference wins in a week with a home shutout over North Scott on Thursday night.
The Lancers fell to 2-4 on the season and 1-1 in the MAC.