116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Iowa City Regina had the banners behind it. But in 2021, Burlington Notre Dame/West Burlington has the No. 1 ranking.
Thursday at Cownie Soccer Park in Des Moines, the new power won out over the traditional one. The Nikes denied the Regals a chance for a fourth straight and ninth overall state title with a 4-2 win in a Class 1A boys’ state soccer semifinal and will now play for a championship Saturday in their first trip to state.
“It was a little closer than you might think,” Regina Coach Rick Larew said. “We had a few good opportunities. Had they gone in, we might have been pressing them a little bit harder at the end, but they didn’t go in and theirs did, to their credit."
ND/WB’s Caden Murphy made a pair of diving saves in the first half, denying all-state forward Alec Wick from point-blank range, then from a free kick. The Under Armour-clad Nikes opened the scoring in the 30th minute, when Cole Ward shrugged off a defender in the box and scored.
Sam Brueck scored twice in the second half to make it 3-0 ND/WB (22-1) before Wick’s header got Regina (12-8) on the board in the 63rd minute. Gabe Zurita restored the lead to three less than two minutes later. Kaleab Wendy added a last-minute consolation goal for the Regals.
“I missed my opportunities. It’s pretty obvious,” Wick said. “We just tried our best. They finished their chances, we didn’t. That was the difference.”
Wick was the leading scorer for Regina’s 2019 title team as a sophomore and also played a major role for 2018’s repeat squad. The soon-to-be Iowa football walk-on finishes his Regals career with 77 goals.
“It could have been better,” Wick said. “Playing on Saturday would have been a lot nicer, but it’s been a great four years here. I’ve loved every second of it.”
West Liberty falls to Western Christian
The West Liberty Comets can relate to Wick and the Regals. They experienced a familiar feeling Thursday, falling 2-1 to No. 10 Western Christian in the other 1A semifinal.
It was fifth-ranked West Liberty’s fourth semifinal defeat in four tries.
“This is not what we wanted,” West Liberty senior center back Kevin Martinez said. “We wanted to play in the state finals and we’re not there.”
Jahsiah Galvan put West Liberty up 1-0 in the 35th minute, when he turned on a missed clearance in the box and scored. Bailey Baccam tied it for the Wolfpack (16-1) in the 50th minute when he drew and converted a penalty, then Eli Van Essen put in the winner via a free-kick rebound with less than seven minutes remaining.
“If you think about it, we defended very well,” West Liberty Coach Walton Ponce said. “We worked our tails off to make sure that we were compact and not giving them anything easy. It’s heartbreaking. The boys have put so much time and effort into this. We will regroup. There are good players coming into the program year after year, so we will regroup and we need to make it past this step next time.”