They’re both ranked No. 1, and they’re both favored to bring championships home to 42nd Street NE.
But the similarities end there for the girls’ soccer teams from Cedar Rapids Xavier and Cedar Rapids Kennedy.
One hopes to extend a streak of glory. The other craves to close a caravan of frustration.
The state tournament begins Thursday at the Muscatine Soccer Complex. The three-time defending Class 1A state champion, Xavier (15-4) opens with Davenport Assumption (9-7) at 11:15 a.m. The three-time reigning 2A runner-up, Kennedy (17-0) tangles with Sioux City North at 5 p.m.
“It helps to motivate us all the time,” Kennedy’s Jenny Martin said of the past memories — three consecutive losses in the finals to West Des Moines Valley, which was tripped in the regional finals Monday by Urbandale. “We’ve always hoped for a championship. After three straight years (of falling short), we want to prove ourselves even more.”
Kennedy is loaded with top-shelf talent with players like Jade Grimm (the 2009 Gatorade Iowa Player of the Year), Rachel Spellerberg, Katherine Lewis and Martin. But, according to Coach Homer Screws, the Cougars flourish because they don’t take themselves too seriously.
“It’s a quirky group,” Screws said. “They’re not your typical soccer junkies. They talk about a lot of things outside of soccer.”
“We’re just a bunch of girls that hang out together each day, doing something we love,” Lewis said.
Xavier has had its share of talent during its title spree (i.e., Sara Clancy, Bailey Dorrington, Morgan Showalter), but this team is a little more anonymous.
“That’s probably a fair assessment,” said senior Krista Pederson. “But, obviously, we still have talent. It’s a powerful team if you can’t pick out any one star.”
The Saints overcame some adversity late in the regular season. Coach Donovan Kron was suspended by the school for the remainder of the year because of he set up a scrimmage with the sophomore boys’ team, a Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union violation.
Chris Banker took over, and piloted the Saints as they posted three consecutive postseason shutouts.
“We made the transition,” Pederson said. “We’ve controlled what we can control, and it has worked out.”
Xavier is 47th in enrollment in the state, and the top 48 teams are classified as 2A. It appeared before the season that the Saints would be knocking heads in the postseason with the big schools. Instead, enough sharing agreements developed to push Xavier back down.
“It would have been nice to have a chance to avenge some of our losses, like to Kennedy and (Cedar Rapids) Washington. But I’m happy where we’re at, too,” Pederson said.
So here Xavier and Kennedy are again, three wins apiece from giving 42nd Street NE a girls’ soccer monopoly.
“If we keep working hard and if we play three good games, we have a good chance,” Screws said.
In other games featuring area teams, Union (20-0) faces Waverly-Shell Rock (16-3) at 11 a.m. in a 1A game and Iowa City West (13-5) meets Johnston (16-3) and Cedar Rapids Jefferson (13-6) tangles with Urbandale (15-4) in 2A matches.
Semifinals are Friday; championships are Saturday.