116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Alex Ruba’s motivation was SweeTarts. A spot in the boys’ state soccer semifinals was even sweeter.
The Gilbert junior center back was handed a package of candy after heading in an overtime golden goal Wednesday afternoon, giving the No. 5-seed Tigers a 1-0 win over No. 4-seed Marion in a Class 2A state quarterfinal game at Cownie Soccer Park.
“I made a bet with my coach this season that for every header goal I get, I get candy,” Ruba said. “It motivates me to score as much as possible.”
This one came on a free-kick delivery from Evan Weary with 1:41 left in the first overtime.
It looked for a while Wednesday like no one would score and Ruba had a lot to do with that. He and the rest of the Tiger back line made sure Marion’s Jackson Kirsch never got free and there were few good chances on either side.
Kirsch’s junior season ends with 55 goals, still easily the most in the state (all classes).
“We knew No. 9 (Kirsch), he’s a phenomenal player, so we knew we had to keep him on our eyes,” Ruba said. “All game, I was talking to my center back and my outside backs and we were just keeping an eye on him. Take away No. 9, we can keep him from scoring and we did that. It ended in a result.”
Gilbert (17-2) will face No. 1-seed Pella (18-2) in the semifinals of a wide-open bracket Friday afternoon. Three of the four quarterfinal games needed extra time to decide the winner.
For Gilbert, it was a second-straight nail-biting victory. It ended Cedar Rapids Xavier’s 12-season state tournament streak with a substate final win in a penalty shootout last week.
“We knew it was gonna be a battle,” Marion Coach Kory Boebel said. “Very physical, aggressive, fast team. We knew this was gonna be a 50-50 shot. It went their way this time.”
The Wolves finished the season 16-2 and return six starters next spring.
“So proud of my boys,” Boebel said. “They fought ‘til the end. Playing in overtime, that’s tough on a team mentally and physically. I couldn’t have asked for anything more from my boys.”