DES MOINES — An early goal could never be matched.
The Cedar Rapids Xavier boys’ soccer team played from behind for the final two-thirds of the Class 2A state championship match Tuesday at Cownie Soccer Park in Des Moines, and never got its much-needed equalizer.
“We kind of opted to go with long ball, which is not our style,” Xavier Coach Amir Hadzic said after the top-ranked Saints were trimmed by No. 9 Lewis Central, 1-0. “We accepted kind of the way they play and we had a little jitters at the beginning of the game. I think we settled in the second half and out-possessed them. We had some clear looks that usually go in. Unfortunately this time, we couldn’t put them in.”
The loss snapped a seven-match win streak for Xavier (16-3), a state runner-up for the third time (2017, 2003). The Saints are now 7-3 all-time in state-championship matches.
“Life is not fair sometimes,” Hadzic said. “Sometimes the better team maybe doesn’t win a game. If this is the worst thing that happens to us in life, so be it.”
Xavier will graduate seven seniors, including leading scorer Andrija Mijatovic, a second-year foreign exchange student. Mijatovic was named to the all-tournament team after posting five combined goals in the quarterfinal and semifinal victories, but was held scoreless against Lewis Central.
“The goalie is really good,” Mijatovic said. “That guy is long, so it was really hard to score on him. I have to give him some credit. Their defense, there were a bunch of gaps. I don’t think we played our game today. We weren’t focused. We were very, very nervous. We have a lot of young freshmen that it was their first state and it was just a really tough game. I think we were a better team but we didn’t execute.”
Mijatovic finished the season with 26 goals, which ranked fourth in all of 2A. Over the next two weeks, the 16-year-old will decide whether to return to his native Croatia or pursue a college soccer career under Hadzic at Mount Mercy.
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“He helped me a lot the last two years here,” Mijatovic said. “I think he can help me in the future, too. … It is still undecided.”
The Lewis Central back line of juniors Cole Drummond and Connor Williams, plus senior Brandon Cline and freshman Easton Adams, proved impenetrable to Mijatovic and the Xavier offense in front of tall junior goalkeeper Mason Vander Woude.
“They did a lot of the work for us,” Lewis Central junior midfielder Jacob Lin said. “I have got to give them the credit. They worked pretty hard for it.”
Lin scored the only goal of the match in the 23rd minute, his fifth goal this season.
“Connor Williams played a set piece in from about half-field or so,” Lin said. “It bounced maybe once or twice and it just sat in front of me so I just kept my head down and placed it. It went in.”
In its first appearance at the state tournament in 22 years, Lewis Central (20-3) claimed its first state title.
“It’s amazing,” Lin said. “It is a great feeling to be able to take it home with us.”
CLASS 2A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
At Des Moines
No. 3 Lewis Central 1, No. 1 Cedar Rapids Xavier 0
Goal — Jacob Lin (5).
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