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Iowa soccer roundup: Iowa City Liberty teams achieve rankings milestones
Highlights from the week in Iowa high school soccer
NORTH LIBERTY — In four days, two sets of soccer rankings put milestones in writing for the Iowa City Liberty soccer programs in their fifth year (and fourth season).
First, Thursday, and the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union’s second set of rankings. In Class 2A, at No. 15: Iowa City Liberty. It’s the first time the Lightning have been featured on that list.
“That was awesome,” Liberty girls’ soccer coach Frank Fiordellisi said. “That was definitely something we celebrated, but we also said, ‘we’ve got higher expectations, higher goals,’ so let’s not go, ‘hey, we made it in the rankings, the job is done.’ Let’s keep building from that.”
Then, Sunday, and the first Iowa High School Soccer Coaches Association poll of the year. In Class 3A, at No. 1: Iowa City Liberty.
Yup, No. 1, thanks to a 5-0 start with a goal differential of 35-0.
The first game for the Lightning as the state’s top-ranked team? Tuesday at home against No. 11 Iowa City West (4-1), a traditional power with a record 21 state tournament appearances and a record nine state titles to its name that was last season’s Class 3A runner-up.
The girls’ first game as a ranked team came Friday at home against Cedar Rapids Kennedy, and it got off to a great start with Grace Heddens’ wonderful goal off the crossbar in the 22nd minute goal. But all-Mississippi Valley Conference goalkeeper Sam Harvey had to leave the game with an injury and the Cougars (1-2) rallied for two second-half goals and a 2-1 win to put a bit of a damper on a big-news day.
Still, Fiordellisi and his Lightning (2-1) players have a good perspective. After losing 7-0 to Kennedy last year, they have positive takeaways from this year’s result, while maintaining that they want more actual victories than moral ones this spring.
“What was really good to see was that our girls, I think in the past, would have taken a 2-1 loss as a positive,” Fiordellisi said. “It was a lot of upset — not in a bad way — and motivated players that we now know we have expectations to do better and to strive further. That’s what’s fun to build this program, to see those types of things.”
Cedar Rapids Kennedy bounces back
It would have been understandable to see Kennedy heads dip after Liberty took a 1-0 lead Friday. The Cougars took two lopsided losses while dealing with injuries against central Iowa powers, then “morale was down a little bit” in practice, Kennedy Coach Annie Welsh said.
Instead, Kennedy attacked relentlessly in the second half, eventually building a 17-6 advantage in shots for the game and grabbing a 2-1 win.
“One thing we’re really proud of this year is the energy and chemistry that we have on the field,” Welsh said. “We’ve worked really hard to create a positive environment so when those things happen, we’re able to continue to play and continue to press like we know how.”
Janelle Minor tied the score on a shot from distance that went in off the post, then Amanda Williams delivered an assist to Liza Scherbring for the go-ahead goal in the 60th minute.
“That really brings the team together,” Minor said of the focus on positivity. “It helps us come together and continue as a team to try to attack more and defend as one.”
Marion has a winning mindset
Marion’s boys’ soccer team isn’t wasting any time this year. Injuries and sickness contributed to a 3-6 start last season before the Wolves turned things around with a nine-game winning streak and a state tournament appearance.
“I think it made more people want to work for it and realize we had the potential for it,” Marion junior Austin Kochan said of that late-season run.
Marion (3-1) already picked up its third win of this season Saturday, 1-0 at Cedar Rapids Xavier in a rematch of a 2021 state quarterfinal loss. Aiden Comried’s centering pass to Kochan led to the only goal of the game in the 44th minute.
“I think it’s just the mindset with our team,” Kochan said. “We have a lot more guys who had a rough season last year. Come this year, they actually want to win.”
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The Wolves also picked up a key Wamac East win last week with junior Jackson Kirsch scoring two goals in a 2-1 result at Solon (6-1). Marion is ranked No. 5 in Class 2A and visits No. 8 Center Point-Urbana (2-0) in an intriguing Wamac cross-divisional matchup on Thursday.
“It’s a good testament to the grit of these guys,” Marion Coach Kory Boebel said. “They put a lot of work in in the offseason and it’s definitely paying off so far.”
The XI: What else stood out this week
1. Sigourney-Keota earned its first win in program history in its second game, 4-1 over Highland last Monday. Junior Ty Shafranek scored three goals for the Cobras.
2. CJ Kammiller scored two goals as Western Dubuque’s boys ended a 16-game losing streak with a 6-0 win at Waterloo East on Friday. The Bobcats’ last win had been over Dubuque Hempstead in the 2019 substate tournament.
3. A strong first half led to a strong early-season win for the Linn-Mar girls on Thursday. The 3A No. 11 Lions scored all three goals in the first 40 minutes to beat 2A No. 3 Cedar Rapids Xavier, 3-0, in an MVC non-divisional game. Linn-Mar faces two more Metro foes this week: Cedar Rapids Jefferson at home Tuesday and Cedar Rapids Kennedy at Coe on Thursday.
4. Mara Pierce delivered four assists and scored two goals in Clayton Ridge’s 6-0 win last Monday over West Delaware, the girls’ team’s first win in its first season after playing as an IHSAA co-ed team last season. Pierce started 10 games for that team.
5. The score of Thursday’s Southeast Conference girls’ opener between Washington and Mount Pleasant had me trying to hunt down highlights. The Demons emerged with a 5-4 win in overtime to remain unbeaten.
6. Jahsiah Galvan started the season last Monday with a six-goal, two-assist performance in West Liberty’s 10-0 win over Cascade. The Northern Iowa football signee is a blast to watch in association football, too.
7. Seven seasons after its only state tournament appearance resulted in a runner-up finish, Mid-Prairie (3-0) is ranked No. 1 in the Class 1A boys’ coaches poll.
8. Spencer’s Alexa Johnson scored eight goals in the Tigers’ 16-0 win over Spirit Lake. The Tigers are ranked No. 4 in Class 2A.
9. Of the nine undefeated teams in the Class 1A boys’ top 10, six reside in Eastern Iowa: No. 1 Mid-Prairie, No. 2 North Fayette Valley, No. 3 Postville, No. 5 Vinton-Shellsburg, No. 7 West Liberty and No. 10 West Branch.
10. Last week’s North Scott-Bettendorf clash needed 10 rounds of penalties to decide a 2-1 Lancers win, according to the Quad-City Times. The Mississippi Athletic Conference should be a fun race, with five teams ranked in three different classes.
11. The state’s game of the week might be April 11: 2A No. 2 Glenwood at 2A No. 1 Council Bluffs Lewis Central.