CEDAR RAPIDS — The Linn-Mar girls’ soccer team worked on a formation change.
Earlier this season, the Lions were shut out in a loss to Cedar Rapids Kennedy. With a rematch standing between Linn-Mar and its first state tournament berth in three years, the Lions added an extra defender and turned their midfielders loose on the unsuspecting Cougars.
“They didn’t see it coming,” Linn-Mar sophomore Abigail Santana said after the 12th-ranked Lions defeated No. 10 Kennedy, 1-0, in a Class 3A regional final Monday night at Kingston Stadium. “We came out this game with big hearts. We knew we didn’t want to lose to them.”
Linn-Mar (14-5) earned a No. 7 seed and will open the state tournament with a 3A quarterfinal against second-seeded Ankeny (17-2) Thursday at 4:30 at Cownie Soccer Park in Des Moines.
The Lions have never won a state quarterfinal game in five prior appearances.
“I think we’re definitely going to be able to push on,” said Linn-Mar sophomore Piper Carey, who scored the only goal of the game in the 12th minute off a Santana assist. “We’ve just got to work as hard as we did this game and not slow down our game because we can beat every team that is in state.”
The goal was the 15th this season for Carey and the assist was the 11th for Santana, a Creighton commit. Both represent team highs this season.
Monday night was the first game in which Kennedy (12-6) was shut out by an Iowa school since a 2016 state semifinal. Despite qualifying for the state tournament four years in a row and 11 of the last 12, the Cougars appeared to all as the more rattled unit.
“We didn’t show up to play,” Kennedy Coach Homer Screws said. “We were tight. We played like we were a bunch of youngsters out there. The nerves were shot. I could see it in the opening minute.”
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Kennedy closed the season with losses in three of five games after a 10-game win streak. Linn-Mar enters the state tournament with a shutout streak of four games in a row.
“I think we just calmed down and just delayed the ball rather than freaking out and playing it long every time,” Linn-Mar sophomore defender Hannah Suskind said. “We played feet, we played it around them and we just came out hungry.”
The Lions had not defeated Kennedy since a regular season game four years ago. Since then, they suffered five losses in a row, including a 2014 regional final loss that ended a perfect Linn-Mar season.
“This is our goal from day one,” Linn-Mar Coach Marco de Leon said. “They wanted to get here bad. They were motivated. They were fighting for this. They’ve been working hard. They weren’t going to let down.”
CLASS 3A REGIONAL FINAL
No. 12 Linn-Mar 1, No. 10 Cedar Rapids Kennedy 0
Goals — Piper Carey 1 (15). Assist — Abigail Santana 1 (11).
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