Prep Soccer

Shutout delivers Cedar Rapids Xavier to girls' state soccer semifinals for first time since 2014

Caitlynn Daniels, Sophie Alessio and Brielle Bastian all score goals for Xavier

DES MOINES — For a girls’ soccer program with nine state championships, it is difficult to imagine a string of seasons with no state semifinal appearances.

After four years, that string is over for Cedar Rapids Xavier.

“We’ve been on a bit of roll,” third-year Xavier Coach Chris Higgins said after the fifth-ranked Saints blanked No. 4 Spencer, 3-0, in a Class 2A state quarterfinal Thursday at Cownie Soccer Park. “It was all about keeping that momentum going.”

Xavier (15-4) has won seven matches in a row and 11 of its last 12. In their first semifinal match since 2014, the Saints will play top-ranked Adel ADM (18-1) Friday at 1:30.

“Very excited,” Xavier junior Quinn Hanigan said. “I think we are all really hyped for the game. … Hopefully we get results again. … We just have to keep doing what we are doing. We have to finish our chances and stay strong on defense.”

Finishing chances and strong defense were a winning combination in the quarterfinals. A Spencer foul in the 19th minute against Xavier junior Sophie Alessio set up a penalty-kick conversion by fellow junior Caitlynn Daniels, her team-high 16th goal this season.

Two minutes later, Alessio put an observation she made from the bench to good use with a goal of her own and a 2-0 Xavier lead.

“I saw that their defense was really split,” Alessio said. “There was a big gap in between them, so I just saw an opening and took them on.”

The goals were the first for Xavier at the state tournament since 2015, which only amplified the ball possession from Hanigan and defensive effort from seniors Avery Campbell and Abbi Westhoff, sophomores Amanda Ross and Liliya Ward and sophomore goalkeeper Maggie Conrad.

“I think the midfield did a great job controlling the 50-50 balls,” said Conrad, who posted her eighth shutout this season, including five in the last seven matches. “Our defenders did a great job clearing it.”

Xavier freshman Brielle Bastian tacked on an insurance goal in the 59th minute, her 13th goal this season.

Spencer ends its season at 19-2.

Girls’ soccer

CLASS 2A STATE QUARTERFINAL

At Des Moines

No. 5 Cedar Rapids Xavier 3, No. 4 Spencer 0

Goals — Caitlynn Daniels (16), Sophie Alessio (6), Brielle Bastian (13). Assist — Ella Kluesner (2).

l Comments: douglas.miles@thegazette.com

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