Prep Soccer

Will Hanigan giving it a go with Cedar Rapids Xavier boys' soccer

Six months after back surgery, three-time all-state player helps Saints shut out Kennedy, 2-0

Cedar Rapids Xavier's Will Hanigan (10) celebrates a goal during the 2017 Class 2A boys' soccer state tournament. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Cedar Rapids Xavier's Will Hanigan (10) celebrates a goal during the 2017 Class 2A boys' soccer state tournament. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Doctors placed the decision in the hands of Will Hanigan.

Anyone who knows the Cedar Rapids Xavier senior realizes the only decision to be made was how quickly he could return to the soccer field.

Six months removed from back surgery, Hanigan started his first game of the season and posted an assist as the Class 2A fourth-ranked Saints blanked 3A No. 12 Cedar Rapids Kennedy, 2-0, in a Mississippi Valley Conference boys’ soccer game Tuesday at Heco Field.

“I didn’t think I was going to be able to play based on what the doctors told me,” said Hanigan, who underwent surgery to insert pins in the facet joints on both sides of one vertebra in his spinal column.

A facet-joint fracture can hinder the ability to control movement, while a break increases spinal instability.

Six weeks ago, a scan revealed that the surgery was not fully healed. Doctors recommended eight more weeks of rest, which would push Hanigan’s soccer availability too far into the postseason for any meaningful conditioning time.

Once the doctors said it was his call, Hanigan returned to the practice field at the end of April, three weeks ahead of schedule.

“I just decided to take a risk and start practicing and see how it felt,” Hanigan said. “So far it is feeling really good, so I’m just going to keep ramping it up.”

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Hanigan — a first team all-state selection in Class 2A last season despite playing just eight games due to his back — saw his first game action in an 8-1 Xavier win over Dubuque Senior on Friday. Hanigan came off the bench and played just 10 minutes, but made a sizable impact with three assists.

“All I really think about from that is I was tired,” Hanigan said with a laugh. “I feel the same right now. I’m happy to help the team any way I can.”

Hanigan was also a second team all-state honoree during both his sophomore and freshman seasons. Part of the pull to play through injury is the similarities to the 2015 Xavier team that last won the state championship. Hanigan started 14 games and tallied 12 goals with six assists as the Saints won their seventh state championship.

“It honestly reminds me a lot of our team when we were freshmen,” Hanigan said. I just think that this team has the potential to win again.”

Hanigan was originally set to play collegiately at Illinois-Chicago, but his continuing back issues forced the Division-I program to go in another direction. Hanigan plans to attend the University of Iowa in the fall.

In the 13th minute, Hanigan assisted on the first goal of the game for Xavier (5-6, 4-6 MVC), which won back-to-back games for the first time this season. The beneficiary of the assist was fellow senior Thomas Bean, who scored his sixth goal of the season.

“Will did well to drag a few defenders in,” said Bean, a Truman State (Mo.) University signee. “That left space in the middle and he knew to cut it across there. We’ve done that before. He just played it across the middle and it was a relatively easy tap in from there.”

Junior forward Andrija Mijatovic — an exchange student from Croatia — scored his team-high ninth goal of the season with a penalty kick in the 18th minute.

Kennedy (6-4, 6-4) lost for the first time in four games.

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“I think our kids were focused today,” Xavier Coach Amir Hadzic said. “This is the quality win that I was waiting for all year.”

AT HECO FIELD

Class 2A No. 4 Cedar Rapids Xavier 2, 3A No. 12 Cedar Rapids Kennedy 0

Goals — Thomas Bean 1 (6), Andrija Mijatovic 1 (9). Assist — Will Hanigan 1 (4).

l Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com

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