116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — West Liberty boys’ soccer coach Walton Ponce called it “a blooper goal.”
But by any name, Western Christian’s well-placed free kick into the net broke a scoreless stalemate and paved the way for a 3-0 Class 1A boys’ state soccer semifinal setback for the Comets Friday at Cownie Soccer Park.
“We’re from potentially 1-0 or 2-0 up to now being one down with 25 minutes to go,” said Ponce, whose team couldn’t convert a pair of one-on-one chances in the first half. “I had to do something to shift the team around to see if we can incorporate a little bit more of the attack, but unfortunately we weren’t able to get it done.”
The so-called “blooper goal” came from the Wolfpack’s Miles Baccam — and barely eluded West Liberty keeper Ruben Meraz. Baccam scored the first two goals for Western Christian and Jeremiah Kredit tacked on an insurance goal with 5:08 remaining.
The top-seeded Wolfpack (17-1) reached the championship match for the second straight season, where they’ll face Davenport Assumption at 1 p.m. Saturday. They also prevented the No. 4-seed Comets (14-4) from playing for a title for the second year in a row.
“They’re well-coached,” Western Christian coach Sou Baccam said. “I talked to (Ponce) beforehand. I respect him. He’s a great guy. That program keeps on, you know, they’re here about every year it seems like. So to beat those guys is a good feeling, but we also respect them as an opponent, too.”
Friday marked the end for three senior Comet starters who helped the program advance to the state semifinals for three consecutive seasons.
Plenty of talent will return next season, too, which bolsters West Liberty’s hops of finally getting to the championship match.
“The program’s in a great spot,” said senior star forward Jahsiah Galvan, who will play football at Northern Iowa. “There’s a lot of commitment from the players and the coaches throughout the offseason to make sure we put in the work and to make sure we’re prepped for the season. All the work that we put in, that’s what leads us to get here, so hopefully they continue to do that.”
Count on it — despite Friday’s setback.
“Obviously it’s hard to talk about moral victories because our goals were bigger, but we’ll keep working,” Ponce said. “We’ve set a huge foundation for this program and we most certainly will be back. We’ve got eight of the 11 players coming back and we’ve got some good incoming freshmen as well, so the program’s in a great spot. Got to get over that semifinal hump.”