CEDAR RAPIDS — The Cedar Rapids Xavier boys’ soccer team already had high postseason expectations.
After seeing the season-long impact of Croatian foreign-exchange student Andrija Mijatovic, it appears the ceiling for the Class 2A fourth-ranked Saints is even higher than expected.
“American type of soccer is different,” the Xavier junior said after scoring two goals in the first 15 minutes of a 6-0 victory over Iowa City Liberty in a substate semifinal game Wednesday at Heco Field. “So all I wanted is to actually start playing like them and be part of the team.”
Mijatovic has accomplished plenty more than simply blending into an experienced group. His 15 goals lead the Saints and his two second-half assists gave him seven this season, which ranks third behind all-state honorees Thomas Bean and Will Hanigan, who have 10 apiece.
“He’s been really important for us,” said Hanigan, who scored his second goal of the season in the 50th minute and added two assists in just his sixth game back from a back injury. “He’s been our main goal-scorer for most of the season while I’ve been out. … It has just been great to have him. Everyone on the team loves him.”
The Hanigan family has hosted Mijatovic in what is expected to be just a one-year stay. This summer, Hanigan will travel to Croatia to spend a couple of weeks with the Mijatovic family.
“I’m really excited to see his country,” Hanigan said.
After a schedule replete with 3A competition, this was the first game against a fellow 2A school for Xavier (8-7). Sophomore midfielder Brennan Lloyd scored his first goal of the season off a Hanigan assist for a 3-0 halftime lead, while Bean – who also tallied an assist — and fellow senior Justin Schneider added second-half goals.
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“I think the last two, three games we started clicking finally,” Xavier Coach Amir Hadzic said. “We connected a couple of winning streaks in the process. … Now we are as healthy as we could be at this part of the season. … We’ll see what the next round brings.”
The next round brings 12th-ranked DeWitt Central (11-5), a 2-1 overtime winner at No. 13 Center Point Urbana on Wednesday.
Iowa City Liberty ends a promising inaugural season at 10-7.
“Overall, a 10-7 season with all freshmen and sophomores is a really great season,” Liberty Coach Ben Watson said. “There is a lot of positives.”
The substate final will be at noon on Saturday. With a win there, the Saints will earn a berth in the state tournament for the 10th year in a row.
“I don’t plan to stop now,” Hanigan said. “We have experience on the team playing at state. It is a tradition at Xavier, so the expectation is to win on Saturday. It is the most exciting time of the year.”
CLASS 2A SUBSTATE SEMIFINAL
No. 4 Cedar Rapids Xavier 6, Iowa City Liberty 0
Goals — Andrija Mijatovic 2 (15), Brennan Lloyd 1 (1), Will Hanigan 1 (2), Thomas Bean 1 (13), Justin Schneider 1 (4). Assists — Will Hanigan 2 (10), Thomas Bean 1 (10), Andrija Mijatovic 2 (7).
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