MARION — The Cedar Rapids Xavier girls’ soccer team had much respect for the offensive capabilities of Marion.
The Indians boasted a double threat of 24-plus goal scorers, which tasked Xavier with the need for constant defensive pressure.
That hold never let up until the outcome was decided.
“We knew they had a lot of speed,” second-year Xavier Coach Chris Higgins said after the 11th-ranked Saints allowed just three shots on goal and defeated No. 6 Marion, 3-1, in a Class 2A regional final Monday at Marion High School. “They’ve got some studs on their team. A lot of goals this year. For the most part, 99 percent of the time defensively we did all right.”
The victory earns Xavier (10-6) — a program with nine state championships, including eight in a row from 2006-13 — a spot in the state tournament for the 15th time in 16 years.
The Saints will open the state tournament with a 2A quarterfinal game Thursday at Cownie Soccer Park in Des Moines.
After scoring five goals in its first five games, Xavier has now scored 31 in the last 11 contests. Senior Elena Minor opened the offense with a goal in the 26th minute, her fifth score this season.
“At the beginning of the year, we had a lot of new players and were getting used to them,” Minor said. “As the season went on, then we worked better as a team and got better offensively.”
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With 24:51 left in the game, Minor posted her fifth assist of the season with a pass to sophomore Quinn Hanigan, who gave the Saints a 2-0 lead with her fourth goal of the season.
“Elena’s slot through definitely made the difference,” Hanigan said. ”All I had to do was tap it in.”
Minor tacked on her second goal of the game and team-high sixth this season with a penalty-kick conversion in the 63rd minute that pushed the Xavier advantage to 3-0.
Xavier outshot Marion in the first half, 6-0, and 13-3 overall.
“We just tried to possess the ball and stay connected throughout,” Xavier defender Avery Campbell said. “Stay strong in the back.”
Marion freshman Grace Coates scored her team-best 27th goal of the season just 10 seconds after the Minor penalty kick. Junior Naomi Smith notched her team-high 16th assist this season, while Coates ranks 12th in the state in goals across all classes.
The Indians (13-2) ended their season in the regional final for the second year in a row.
“It was a tough day,” Marion Coach Erik Trilk said. “In the end, I just told them I feel they played as well as they possibly could have played today.”
CLASS 2A REGIONAL FINAL
No. 11 Cedar Rapids Xavier 3, No. 6 Marion 1
Goals — CRX: Elena Minor 2 (6), Quinn Hanigan 1 (4); MAR: Grace Coates 1 (27). Assists — CRX: Elena Minor 1 (5); MAR: Naomi Smith 1 (16).
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