DES MOINES — Considering the range of emotions this year’s Cedar Rapids Xavier boys’ soccer seniors have experienced at Cownie Soccer Park, Thursday was a rather nondescript day.
The third-ranked Saints controlled the midfield and advanced with a 3-0 win over No. 6 Dallas Center-Grimes in a Class 2A quarterfinal. With experienced seniors up top, in the middle and along the backline, Xavier (10-7) certainly had the look of a composed group against DCG (15-4).
Senior Justin Schneider opened the scoring in the 15th minute when he flicked a Thomas Bean ball past the keeper and finished. Andrija Mijatovic added goals in both halves to take over the team lead with 17 this season.
Xavier outshot DCG 11-2 will take on another Little Hawkeye Conference team, No. 4 Pella (17-2) in Friday afternoon’s semifinals.
“We’re so confident,” said Will Hanigan, one of those seniors. “We just went and played our game. We expect to win when we’re playing our best.”
Hanigan was the tournament’s most outstanding player as a freshman in 2015, helping deliver Xavier its seventh state title. The Saints lost in the quarterfinals on a goal from the center circle two years ago, then went down in a championship penalty-kick shootout last season.
It’s those experiences that allow this year’s team to play with few nerves.
“I think this team and school, we’ve been here a lot and know what to expect,” Bean said. “As a team, we have a lot of young guys but also a lot of seniors and we’re playing our best right now.”
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That doesn’t mean Xavier expects to coast through the tournament. After all, the Saints needed a shootout to beat DeWitt Central 3-2 in the substate finals. It’s just that the Saints have an intangible advantage at kickoff of most matches here.
“Those jitters can really take a lot out of their game,” Xavier Coach Amir Hadzic said. “With that experience, they not only use it for themselves, they spread it to the rest of the team. That way, they are so important for us. Will doesn’t need to score a goal or make an assist, but just his presence and that experience really changes the way we play.”
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