116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Iowa high school soccer returns this week, and this year we only had to wait around 10 months.
Here are five questions, plus some Gazette area players and teams to watch entering the 2022 season.
What’s next for Cedar Rapids Xavier?
After winning his fifth state title in his 13th state tournament as Cedar Rapids Xavier head coach, Amir Hadzic stepped away in the offseason for two hip replacement surgeries.
In his place is Sho Takaoka, an assistant coach the last three seasons who played for and coaches with Hadzic at Mount Mercy. Expect the Saints to be Class 2A contenders again.
“I know I will physically not be there every day but I will keep my Xavier family in my heart forever,” Hadzic said in a release.
Will the newest programs more than hold their own?
The days of automatically assuming new soccer programs will struggle against the established schools might be over. Of course, blowouts remain, but the depth of talent is getting stronger.
In its second varsity season, North Fayette Valley (14-5) knocked off second-ranked Dyersville Beckman to get to state last season. Cascade (7-5) finished with a winning record in its first season, and Clayton Ridge (5-6) almost did.
This year we welcome Sigourney-Keota to the pitch. The Cobras’ first game is Tuesday at Monroe PCM.
Any noteworthy class changes?
In the IHSSA’s preliminary list, Solon is a Class 2A program. Last year’s team was ranked No. 4 in Class 1A but lost in the substate finals to No. 3 Iowa City Regina.
Vinton-Shellsburg is listed in Class 1A after a 15-1 season that saw it climb to No. 2 in the Class 2A rankings before taking its only loss to Waverly-Shell Rock in the substate finals. The Vikings have to replace eight senior starters who helped make the young program a winner.
How will the new state tournament format work?
The boys’ state soccer tournament still is a grind of three games in four days for the finalists, but it’s no longer three games in three days and that’s an improvement.
The girls’ and boys’ tournaments will be held the same week at Cownie Soccer Park in Des Moines, with the boys playing June 1 (quarterfinals), June 3 (semifinals) and June 4 (finals). Fresher legs at the end of the week should make for games that more closely resemble the season.
What are some games to watch in April?
Here are a few in the area that have my attention.
Cedar Rapids Prairie at Iowa City West, April 5 — Two of the MVC’s best meet early in the season. Last year’s game went to overtime and was the Trojans’ only loss before the state final.
Marion at Cedar Rapids Xavier April 9 — A rematch of last year’s state quarterfinal that the Saints won 1-0. Both teams are capable of being in that position again in June.
Iowa City High at Linn-Mar, April 26 — Two MVC teams that didn’t get to state last year but are routine threats to do so.
Iowa City Regina at West Liberty, April 28 — The River Valley Conference doesn’t sponsor soccer and these two members didn’t play last year, when both were Class 1A state semifinalists.
Area players to watch
Dillon Bruck, sr., Solon — Second team all-state pick scored 20 goals, ranking second on a team that was No. 4 in the final Class 1A rankings. First team All-Wamac East.
Logan Burchard, sr., Dyersville Beckman — Led a team that was ranked No. 2 in Class 1A with 15 goals. Also had six assists. First team All-Wamac East.
Gabe Chapa, sr., Linn-Mar — Western Illinois commit led the Lions with nine goals last season. First team All-MVC Mississippi.
Andre Fuentes, soph., North Fayette Valley — Led a program that reached the Class 1A state tournament in its second varsity season with 22 assists while also scoring 16 goals as a freshman. Second team all-state selection.
Jahsiah Galvan, sr., West Liberty — First team all-state. Ranked sixth in the state (all classes) with 37 goals and 11th with 18 assists for a Class 1A state semifinalist. Northern Iowa football commit was also a second team all-state defensive back.
Blake Halleran, sr., Cedar Rapids Prairie — First team all-state and first team All-MVC Mississippi midfielder. Scored six goals last season. Committed to Wartburg College.
Carson Jeffery, sr., Cedar Rapids Xavier — First team all-state goalkeeper for last season’s Class 2A state champion. Didn’t allow a goal in any of the team’s three state tournament wins. Made 58 saves and gave up 13 goals against a 3A-heavy schedule.
Gavin Lewis, soph., Cedar Rapids Prairie — Led a Class 3A state tournament qualifier with eight goals as a freshman. Honorable mention all-state. Second team All-MVC Mississippi.
Jaxyn Logan, sr., Iowa City Liberty — First team All-MVC Mississippi goalkeeper made 110 saves, stopping 76.4 percent of shots on goal.
Juan Mateo, jr., West Liberty — Second team all-state forward tied for eighth in the state (all classes) with 34 goals for a Class 1A state semifinalist. Also had 15 assists.
Kayden McMaster, sr., Cedar Rapids Prairie — First team all-state and first team All-MVC Mississippi defender for a team that produced nine shutouts.
Peyton Miller, sr., West Branch — First team all-state forward ranked second in the state (all classes) with 40 goals.
Mitchell Naber, sr., Dyersville Beckman — Totaled 11 goals and eight assists for a team that was ranked No. 2 in Class 1A. First team All-Wamac East.
Michael Nelson, jr., Iowa City West — First team All-MVC Valley midfielder played a key role as a sophomore for the Class 3A state runner-up team. Scored 14 goals and had five assists.
Aidan Neumann, soph., Cedar Rapids Prairie — Started in goal all season as a freshman, making 60 saves while allowing just 13 goals for a team ranked No. 2 in Class 3A. Honorable mention all-state.
Jackson Pennington, sr., Mid-Prairie — Honorable mention all-state midfielder scored 14 goals and added six assists for an 11-5 team that was ranked No. 15 in Class 1A. Committed to Cornell College for basketball.
Hayden Saul, jr., Iowa City Liberty — Led a 9-8 team with eight goals from a defense/midfield role, including a game-tying header in the final seconds against eighth-ranked Iowa City High. First team All-MVC Mississippi.
Trysten Vasquez, sr., Cedar Rapids Xavier — First team all-state and first team All-MVC Valley defender for a team that didn’t allow a goal in three state tournament wins. Also a first team all-state kicker in football. Committed to play soccer at Central College.
Area teams to watch
Cedar Rapids Prairie — Two all-state selections and two others who received honorable mention are back from a team that was ranked No. 2 in Class 3A and reached the state tournament for the fourth time in six seasons.
Cedar Rapids Xavier — Last year’s Class 2A state champion loses seven senior starters but has two all-state picks back as it looks to extend a 12-season state tournament streak.
Dyersville Beckman — Stopped short of state last year, Beckman loses only three senior starters to graduation from a team that was ranked No. 2 in Class 1A.
Iowa City High — Three first-team all-conference picks in Aaron Rutherford, Matthew Brown and Ben Horwitz return from a substate finalist that was ranked No. 8 in Class 3A and lost by a late goal to eventual state champion Pleasant Valley.
Iowa City Liberty — Last year’s team went 9-8 and showed a lot of promise, particularly at the end of the season, with just one senior starter.
Iowa City Regina — A state tournament streak was extended to 13 seasons last year with only two seniors in the starting lineup. Sixty-five percent of the team’s goals graduate, but players like sophomore Kaleab Wendy (16 goals, 10 assists) can keep producing.
Iowa City West — Seven senior starters move on from a Class 3A runner-up team, but this program is tied with West Des Moines Valley with a record 21 state tournament appearances.
Marion — The top two goal scorers are gone, but almost everyone else is back from a state tournament team that won nine games in a row after a 3-6 start, including first-team All-Wamac East players Jordan Fischer and Austin Kochan
Solon — A team that was ranked No. 4 in Class 1A and took Iowa City Regina to penalties in the substate finals has all but two starters returning.
West Liberty — Two all-state forwards are back to lead a program that has been to the Class 1A state semifinals each of the last two seasons.