DES MOINES — Freshman Ren Schroud fell to the ground on his back. Senior Will Hanigan buried his face in his hands.
As the game clock struck zero on the state championship hopes for the Cedar Rapids Xavier boys’ soccer team, longtime Coach Amir Hadzic had a simple message.
Life moves on.
“Soccer is a cruel sport,” Hadzic said after the fifth-seeded Saints were eliminated by No. 1 seed Pella, 2-1, in a hard-fought, physical Class 2A state semifinal Friday at Cownie Soccer Park. “We gave up maybe two, three shots on goal and conceded two goals. Then we had so many chances and you don’t score. We’ll try to move on.”
Xavier (10-8) is now 9-3 all-time in state semifinal games. The last of its seven state championships was in 2015.
The Saints will play for third place Saturday at 1:40 against fellow Metro school Marion (16-1), which lost for the first time this season in its semifinal.
“It will be tough tomorrow to play for third place, it’s not fun for anybody,” Hadzic said. “Just excited to be here and it is a chance for all players to play. Life moves on.”
It appeared that the game was headed for a scoreless halftime until Pella senior Ethan Poulter scored with 1:57 left. Xavier tied the game in the 65th minute when senior Thomas Bean was tripped by the Pella goalkeeper. The ensuing penalty kick was converted by junior Andrija Mijatovic, his team-best 18th goal this season.
Bean and Mijatovic each had one-on-one opportunities in final 15 minutes against Pella goalkeeper Sam Warner, but Warner let nothing else by.
“He’s come a long way as our starting keeper,” Pella Coach Mark Solomon said. “He’s done a fantastic job and I think the biggest change for him has been his maturity level. He’s able to keep a clear head during situations like this.”
A little more than four minutes after the Saints tied the game, Poulter scored the go-ahead header for his 36th goal this season, which is tied for second in the state across all classes.
“We couldn’t let that get us down and let them have momentum,” Poulter said. “We just had to possess the ball as much as we could. Bring down their momentum and lead to a new goal hopefully.”
Pella (18-2) is in the state final for the first time since 2002. The Dutch will square off with unbeaten Storm Lake (18-0) for the 2A state title Saturday at 2:30.
CLASS 2A STATE SEMIFINAL
No. 1 Pella 2, No. 5 Cedar Rapids Xavier 1
Goals — CRX: Andrija Mijatovic 1 (18); PEL: Ethan Poulter 2 (36).
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