DES MOINES — As the old chestnut goes, “It is hard to lose when the other team does not score.”
For the second day in a row, a stout defensive effort from the Cedar Rapids Xavier boys’ soccer team resulted in a shutout victory. As a result, the top-seeded Saints are one win away from a state title.
“It’s really a team effort,” Xavier Coach Amir Hadzic said after a 2-0 win over No. 4 Gilbert in a Class 2A state semifinal Saturday at Cownie Soccer Park. “We rotate about seven, eight guys there and all of them are tough as nails. … I am just proud of them. They challenged everything. They tackled hard. The other team was great, as well. Very physical and big and I think we matched their physicality.”
The win delivers Xavier (16-2) to a state final for the 10th time in school history. The Saints will face ninth-ranked Lewis Central (19-3), winner of 12 matches in a row, Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. for the state championship.
The Saints now have 32 state-tournament wins in school history, which ties them for second in the state with West Des Moines Valley. Xavier is 7-2 all-time in state-championship matches, including 4-1 under Hadzic.
“We came with one goal,” Hadzic said. “It sounds sometimes pretentious, but that is what we really believe. We came here with a purpose and we wanted to be in that championship game. Hats down to Gilbert for a great game, but I think we proved that we deserved to be there.”
Xavier senior Andrija Mijatovic continued his strong offensive play at the state tournament. One day after tying the tournament record with four goals in one match, Mijatovic opened the scoring for the Saints with a header in the 29th minute, his team-high 26th goal this season.
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Xavier junior forward Nick Fischer tacked on an important insurance goal just 43 seconds into the second half, his 15th this season.
“I just saw the defender and the ball,” Fischer said. “I cut in front of the defender and was able to get a foot on it.”
Mijatovic moved to the back line for the final 10 minutes of the match to help preserve the lead. The shutout was the 10th in 18 matches this season for the Xavier defense, which has allowed just nine goals all season.
“We are really just sticking together as a team,” sophomore midfielder Ren Schroud said. “Staying compact and making sure we are just clearing it when we need to and making the passes when we need to.”
CLASS 2A STATE SEMIFINAL
At Des Moines
No. 1 Cedar Rapids Xavier 2, No. 5 Gilbert 0
Goals — Andrija Mijatovic (26), Nick Fischer (15).
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