CEDAR RAPIDS — When Jacob Johnson took over as coach of the Cedar Rapids Washington girls’ soccer team this season, he arrived armed with a new system.
But in order to implement a formation with four midfielders and four defenders, Johnson needed two dynamic forwards.
Junior Julie Holt and senior Hannah Sacora have taken those roles and helped get the 13th-ranked Warriors within a game of the Class 3A state tournament.
“We don’t go to a three-forward system because they are getting the job done,” Johnson said after Washington edged No. 15 Iowa City High, 2-1, in a regional semifinal Wednesday at Kingston Stadium. “That takes so much pressure off of everyone else. Can’t say enough about those two. Good kids, too.”
Things did not click immediately for Washington this season. The Warriors opened with three losses in a row, including a 1-0 shutout at Iowa City High. Since that game, Washington (11-4) has won 11 of 12 games and led the Mississippi Valley Conference with eight shutouts.
“I’m lucky enough to have a really good group of girls who have mental grit,” Johnson said. “Took that 0-3 and knew that wasn’t representative of how they are as players and as a team, so they turned things around on their own.”
Holt got the scoring started for Washington with a strike in the 14th minute off an assist from senior Sarah Altemeier. Holt leads the team with 10 scores this season.
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“It was just open and I was just hoping to put one in,” Holt said. “Because I wanted to make sure our seniors, I wanted to support them and help them keep playing forward.”
Sacora added what proved to be a valuable insurance goal midway through the second half when she fielded the ball from Altemeier, sized up her shot and drilled it past the City High goalkeeper for a 2-0 lead.
“I was told to turn and I saw the keeper was near post,” said Sacora, who is second on the team with seven goals and is tied with Altemeier with eight assists this season. “I knew I just needed to finish it in the bottom corner, because otherwise anywhere else it wasn’t going in.”
University of Iowa commit Sam Schroder scored a goal off a Madelynn Fontana assist in the waning minutes for City High, which ends its season at 10-7.
Washington will visit No. 3 West Des Moines Valley (15-2) in a regional final Monday at 6. Win there, and the Warriors will reach the state tournament for the first time since 2011.
“We just keep being us,” Sacora said.
CLASS 3A REGIONAL SEMIFINAL
At Kingston Stadium
No. 13 Cedar Rapids Washington 2, No. 15 Iowa City High 1
Goals — ICH: Sam Schroder 1 (3); CRW: Julie Holt 1 (10), Hannah Sacora 1 (7). Assists — ICH: Madelynn Fontana 1 (1); CRW: Sarah Altemeier 2 (8).
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