116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
WEST LIBERTY — The directive from West Liberty boys’ soccer coach Walton Ponce was clear here Monday night.
“Move the ball!” Ponce routinely shouted in the second half of a 5-1 win against 2A No. 13 Clear Creek Amana.
For a team with a clear style and identity, hammering home that idea never ceases.
“We live or die with our style,” Ponce said. “We know that we jeopardize possession in certain areas of the field, but we know that we’re most dangerous when the ball is at our feet.”
It’s the crisp passing, control and well-defined roles that combine to make 1A No. 4-ranked West Liberty one of the more entertaining high school soccer teams in the area.
And one of the most dangerous.
Clear Creek Amana (8-3) gave unbeaten, 2A No. 3 Vinton-Shellsburg its toughest test earlier this year in a 1-0 setback and had allowed just seven goals all season.
West Liberty (9-2) nearly equaled that in 80 minutes. The Comets scored the first three goals of the game and were up 3-1 at halftime. Sophomore left-winger Juan Mateo totaled four, including a pair of penalties, and junior forward Jahsiah Galvan (a Division I football recruit) had the other.
“We know we can compete with any school with our playing style,” defensive midfielder Diego Hernandez said.
A lot of goals this team scores start at the back and the 15th-minute opener was the perfect encapsulation. Defender Bryan Martinez dribbled around a defender and moved the ball forward. Dynamic senior playmaker Ronald Guzman sent a perfect ball through the back line, and Mateo raced around a defender and blasted a shot with enough power to find the net after goalkeeper Wes Quinlan did well to get a hand to it.
“Since we’ve all known each other growing up, it’s worked perfect on the field,” Hernandez said.
West Liberty’s only losses have come in penalties, to 3A No. 14 Muscatine and 2A No. 14 Davenport Assumption. But the Comets were disappointed with Saturday’s performance, a 2-1 overtime win over West Branch.
“We knew we had a bad game,” Hernandez said. “I know all of us, we didn’t like how we played so we put it in our heads we had to do better today.”
This win was the Comets’ sixth straight, and it might be their best.
“Slowly but surely we’re peaking, and hopefully we’re peaking at the right time at the end of the season,” Ponce said.