DES MOINES — By the time a few cracks in the defense were uncovered, it was far too late.
The Cedar Rapids Xavier girls’ soccer team opened the state tournament against a Pella team that had not surrendered a goal in over a month. After an aggressive early offensive attack yielded no scores and the scoring chances dried up over the middle part of the game, the Saints were bound for elimination.
Junior Josie Lickteig and senior Erica Bossard each scored goals for third-seeded Pella as the Lady Dutch blanked No. 6 Cedar Rapids Xavier, 2-0, in a Class 2A state quarterfinal Thursday at Cownie Soccer Park.
“If you don’t take your chances up top in the first 10 minutes, you let good teams back into the game,” second-year Xavier Coach Chris Higgins said. “The hope was to get up early and go on from there, but Pella battled back. Credit to them.”
Xavier freshman goalkeeper Maggie Conrad appeared to signal good times were ahead for the Saints with two remarkable saves in the 28th minute. Conrad deflected a Pella free kick off the crossbar, which bounded back in play in front of the goal. While lying flat on her stomach, Conrad managed to corral a second Pella shot off the deflection.
“Maggie’s been tremendous all year,” Higgins said. “She is so mature for a freshman. She’ll learn from games like this.”
Pella (14-2) broke through just six minutes later when Lickteig bent a right corner kick into the goal off the hands of Conrad for a 1-0 lead.
“A lot of practice,” Lickteig said with a laugh. “It just kind of happened. It takes a lot of practice.”
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Bossard — a Monmouth (Ill.) College signee — added her fifth goal of the season in the 48th minute off an assist from junior Grace Held.
With a two-goal lead, the Pella defense clamped down and despite a late offensive surge from the Saints, posted its seventh shutout in a row and 11th this season.
“Josie Lickteig, our center defender, really dependable back there,” Pella Coach Mark Howard said. “Kara Wichhart on the right and Jacque Lensing on the left. They’ve really been playing together well, communicating and they haven’t been scored on in quite a while. Hopefully we can keep it that way.”
Pella (14-2) will play a 2A state semifinal Friday at 1:45 against No. 2 Waverly-Shell Rock (19-0). Pella lost to the undefeated Go-Hawks, 3-1, on April 21.
Xavier ends the season at 10-7. After winning eight state titles in a row from 2006-13, the Saints have reached a state semifinal just once in the last five years.
Higgins — a native of Scotland — just completed a Master’s program at Mount Mercy, so his return to the team is dependent on career pursuits.
“I’d love to come back and coach these (players), this freshman group especially,” Higgins said. “An exciting group. We’ll just have to see what the future holds.”
CLASS 2A STATE QUARTERFINAL
No. 3 Pella 2, No. 6 Cedar Rapids Xavier 0
Goals — Josie Lickteig 1 (3), Erica Bossard 1 (5). Assist — Grace Held 1 (6).
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