116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Cedar Rapids Xavier kept Kenzie Roling and top-ranked Waverly-Shell Rock off the scoreboard for more than 83 minutes of Tuesday’s game.
Just over three minutes into overtime, though, the state’s leading scorer made her mark.
“Sometimes, special players show up in big moments,” Xavier Coach Chris Higgins said.
Roling is a special player. The University of Iowa signee got the ball in transition, split two defenders and placed a shot past a sliding goalkeeper Maggie Conrad and into the back of the net for her state-leading 69th goal of the season.
This happened in a big moment. Roling’s goal with 6:43 left in the first overtime gave No. 1 Waverly-Shell Rock a 1-0 win over No. 8 Xavier in a Class 2A girls’ state soccer quarterfinal at Cownie Soccer Park.
“I had missed a couple (chances) that I probably should have had and I knew I had to do it for my team,” Roling said.
The rematch of the 2019 Class 2A state final looked a lot like a championship game itself.
It was on Field 9, the main stadium where the finals are played. It was intense, back-and-forth action with high stakes. It was full of big saves from Conrad and WSR’s Katelyn Eggena and few mistakes from either side.
And, like that 2-1 Xavier victory in the final game of 2019 and the Go-Hawks’ 2-1 triumph earlier this season, it needed more than 80 minutes to decide a winner.
“It’s just unfortunate we had to play them in the first game because I think that was well worthy of another state championship final,” Higgins said. “Proud of the girls, proud of their season. They gave it everything today, just came up a little bit short against a very good team.”
It’s the second time this season a Roling golden goal gave the Saints (13-6) a loss.
Tuesday, they set out to stop her with senior center back Liliya Ward constantly marking her and junior center back Aly Wiesenhofer dropping in behind as a sort-of last-ditch sweeper.
“We’ve seen that type of (defense) quite a bit,” Roling said. “This was a little more aggressive, a little more kind of hands-on, I guess you could say. It was definitely a challenge but we kind of knew how to play it since we’ve seen it a lot against some of these bigger schools. We just had to execute.”
For the most part, Xavier’s strategy worked. Roling’s chances were limited and when she did get them, Conrad was there for the save.
“The girls followed the game plan tremendously,” Higgins said.
The Saints nearly had the breakthrough multiple times. Brielle Bastian had two first-half shots in the box saved by Eggena, including one that caromed off the post. In the opening seconds of the second half, Mary Clare Bean launched a shot that Eggena tipped off the crossbar. Early in OT, Bastian had a one-on-one opportunity denied with a diving save.
“She’s never played goalie in her life (before this season) so we’re super proud of her,” Roling said. “Honestly, she saved that game for us quite a few times.”
The Go-Hawks (17-2) advance to face No. 5 Spencer in Wednesday’s semifinals.
Xavier lost only to ranked teams this season, and just one, a 2-0 defeat to 3A No. 4 West Des Moines Dowling in the season opener, was by more than one goal. This was the Saints’ fourth straight trip to state after a 13-year run ended in 2016.
“We learned a lot of lessons during the year,” Higgins said. “I think this group pleasantly surprised me throughout the year. We found a style of play that worked for us and was effective. I thought we got really cohesive.
“We were hard to beat as well.”