By Justin Braden
CEDAR RAPIDS — The high school girls soccer rankings came out Thursday, the same day Cedar Rapids Kennedy and Cedar Rapids Xavier were scheduled to meet. For Thursday, at least, they were both number one.
Kennedy, top-ranked in Class 2A, no doubt earned the right to stay there with a 3-1 victory at Xavier.
Kennedy is coming off a runner-up finish in Class 2A last season. Xavier has won three straight Class 1A championships and entered Thursday’s game at 3-0. The teams have been cultivating an intense rivalry.
“You have to really prepare for this,” said Kennedy midfielder Jennifer Martin, a senior bound for Loyola University in Chicago. “We know that there is more competition for this game, but we have a lot of talent.”
Last year’s meeting was played in snow. This time, a 72-degree, slightly windy day had tennis practice on one side of the field and children playing on another. Most likely, the kids on the tire swing had no idea they were missing two great soccer teams battling it out.
Each school scored early, but most of the action required the Saints to be on the defensive. With ten minutes left in the first half, Kennedy’s Jennifer Snook scored a beautifully set up strike to the corner of the net. Mere minutes before the end of the half, the Cougars scored again on ninth grader Hannah Palomo’s similarly placed goal to make it 3-1.
The Saints came out much stronger in the second half, and the yellow cards began to fly. Both teams played aggressively, allowing no scores in the second half.
Xavier (3-1) is at the Nevada Invitational this weekend. Kennedy (4-0) will take on Dubuque Senior at home Tuesday.
It’s possible just one of these two teams will remain at the top when the next rankings come out. But chances are they could both be there again at the end of the year.