IOWA CITY — It has been a marvelous string of success for the Iowa City West boys’ soccer team.
A 2-1 victory over No. 15 Cedar Rapids Kennedy in Saturday’s Class 3A substate final at Barker Field delivered the fifth-ranked Trojans to the state tournament for the 18th time in 19 years.
While the names and faces on the field change with each graduating class, the architect of all but one of those state appearances remains Coach Brad Stiles.
“I think the buzzword is ‘culture’ and we’ve bought into the way that the guys did it way back in the day,” Stiles said. “We’ve followed that lead. ... Today, you need a roster of 20, that’s for sure and that’s what we preach.”
West (17-3) will be seeded fifth when the 3A state tournament begins Thursday at Cownie Soccer Complex in Des Moines. The Trojans will play fourth-seeded Ankeny Centennial (15-4) in a quarterfinal game at 5:10 p.m. Centennial defeated West on March 30, 1-0.
“Another trip to Des Moines is a good thing,” Stiles said. “I think my dad says it best, ‘sometimes you’ve got to be (more) lucky than good.’ I think today was one of those days. We won a hard-fought game, that’s for sure.”
Stiles has coached Iowa City West since 2001. In that time, the Trojans have qualified for the state tournament in every year but one (2015) and have won eight of their state-best nine state championships, including last year as an eight seed.
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“Stiles knows how to put together a team,” West sophomore Brody Schilling said. “It’s a long process to get to where we are. We keep growing as a team as we move on. We always find little things that we can fix, every practice. So we’re out here, we always grind and we get it. He’s just really approachable. He gets the most out of us and he pushes us to do our best. That’s what we did today.”
A Schilling pass to senior Ahmed Abdalla got the scoring started in the seventh minute for the Trojans. Abdalla dribbled around and inside the Kennedy back line and found the back of the net for his fifth goal of the season.
“It felt good. It was meant to be,” Abdalla said. “I just thanked him. I knew I was going to put it in.”
Kennedy seemed to exert a bit of control late in the first half, which eventually paid off with a game-tying goal by sophomore Kisibo Kasha. Stiles countered the Kennedy momentum by replacing a forward with an extra midfielder and delivered a strong message.
“Coach Stiles looked at us and said, ‘We have to win the ball,’” Schilling said. “At the end of the half, we were getting beat to every ball and Stiles looked at us and said, ‘We have to go out there, this is our last game of the season on Barker. We have to go do it.’”
Schilling appeared to give the Trojans the lead in the 53rd minute, but Kennedy was whistled for a penalty a couple of steps before Schilling scored. Schilling got another opportunity with a free kick.
“I scored it, and then all of a sudden we saw the whistle go back,” Schilling said. “I was just thinking, ‘Oh man, what do I have to do now?’ And Stiles looked at me and said, ‘I have faith in you, just try and bury it.’ … All I had to do was hit it and I hit it just right.”
The goal was the seventh this season for Schilling and it proved to be the game winner.
Kennedy ends its season at 11-6.
“I think we probably had one of the tougher routes to get anywhere with this,” Kennedy Coach Adrian Evans said. “Senior wasn’t an easy game, Wash was really tough and then to come back and play this style of game in these conditions against that team. It’s the returning state champions and they have obviously completely reloaded and ready for another run and made it tough. I’d like to think we hung with them, went toe for toe.”
CLASS 3A SUBSTATE FINAL
No. 5 Iowa City West 2, No. 15 Cedar Rapids Kennedy 1
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Goals — CRK: Kisibo Kasha 1 (6); ICW: Ahmed Adballa 1 (5), Brody Schilling 1 (7).
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