CEDAR RAPIDS — Since the third week of the boys’ soccer season, Cedar Rapids Xavier has played with the pressure of being ranked No. 1 in Class 2A.
The Saints will likely have an even bigger target on their back this week with a probable No. 1 seed at the state tournament.
“We will take it in wholeheartedly,” Xavier sophomore midfielder Ren Schroud said after the Saints routed Iowa City Liberty, 9-1, in a substate final Saturday night at Mount Mercy. “We love to be the top dog and I think we will just be really confident. We can go far.”
The victory sends Xavier (14-2) to state tournament for the 11th year in a row and 18th time in school history. The Saints will play a quarterfinal match Thursday at Cownie Soccer Park in Des Moines.
“Sometimes we take it for granted, which is kind of weird,” said Xavier Coach Amir Hadzic, who has coached the Saints to 12 of their state berths. “I know some teams celebrate and everything. Our guys just kind of take it as a normal step. … It is that expectation and I think every generation does not want to be that generation who will not make it.”
Xavier jumped on Liberty with five first-half goals. Schroud and sophomore forward Arnold Mutasingwa each finished with two goals, while five other Saints — Khang Do, Nick Fischer, Michael Glavan, Andrija Mijatovic and J.P. Segura — added a goal.
Mijatovic leads the team with 21 goals this season, while Fischer has 14.
Ayi Ajavon scored the lone goal via a penalty kick for Iowa City Liberty, which ends its season at 7-11.
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Xavier enters the state tournament with five wins in a row. Out of 18 state trips, the Saints have gone as far as the state-title match nine times, with seven championships.
“I think we have what it takes,” Mutasingwa said. “If we just play our best, play the way we’ve been playing this whole year, then we can make it in.”
CLASS 2A SUBSTATE FINAL
At Mount Mercy
No. 1 Cedar Rapids Xavier 9, Iowa City Liberty 1.
Goals — ICL: Ayi Ajavon (14); CRX: Arnold Mutasingwa 2 (9), Ren Schroud 2 (3), Nick Fischer (14), Michael Glavan (3), Andrija Mijatovic (21), Khang Do (1), J.P. Segura (2).
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