DES MOINES — Iowa City Regina seniors Leo Gasparoni, Max Petersen and Jonah Warren have played soccer together since they were in elementary school.
Their friendship forged through soccer will culminate Tuesday in one final state championship match will the Regina boys’ soccer team, which can claim a third state title in a row for the second time in school history.
“It would be awesome,” said Warren, who converted the go-ahead penalty kick in a 3-1 victory for No. 2-ranked Regina against No. 11 West Liberty in a Class 1A state semifinal Saturday at Cownie Soccer Park. “It would be really cool just to finish off our senior year, our career that way.”
The senior trio were first teammates with the Iowa City Kickers youth soccer organization before joining area clubs. Gasparoni and Warren were with Iowa Soccer Club, while Petersen often opposed them at Alliance Soccer Club.
Their reunion as three teammates with the Regina varsity squad in 2016 only strengthened their longtime bond to the point that all three consider each other best friends.
“Learned to play with each other,” Gasparoni said. “Know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. … Their style of play. What they want to do with it.”
Fellow Regina senior Kieler Brown broke the scoreless stalemate with a long shot that sailed beyond the reach of the West Liberty goalkeeper with 48 seconds left in the first half.
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After West Liberty junior Gabe Seele tied the match with a penalty-kick conversion in the 44th minute, Warren’s PK gave the Regals the lead for good three minutes later.
West Liberty (11-8) will play a consolation match against Sioux Center (14-5) Tuesday at 11:10 a.m. Aside from the PK, the Comets were unable to muster any offense against the combination of Petersen on defense and Gasparoni and Warren in the midfield.
“We high-pressed off their goal kicks and direct kicks,” Petersen said. “We just shut their key players down.”
Regina (17-6) will play top-ranked Waterloo Columbus (20-2) for the state title Tuesday at noon.
The Regals and Sailors split their two regular-season meetings this year. Regina won at home, 2-1, April 16 but dropped a 4-0 decision 11 days later in their third match of the day at Davenport Assumption’s tournament.
“The state championship is enough motivation,” Petersen said.
This will be the eighth appearance in the state final for Regina. In each of their previous seven state championship matches, the Regals won the state crown.
“They are a really good team,” Warren said. “We are going to have to play our hardest to compete and win, but we are looking forward to it.”
CLASS 1A STATE SEMIFINAL
At Des Moines
No. 4 Iowa City Regina 3, No. 8 West Liberty 1
Goals — WL: Gabe Seele (13); ICR: Kieler Brown (10), Jonah Warren (3), Alec Wick (31).
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