CEDAR RAPIDS — Washington coach J.P. Graham and his star player got some rare one-on-one instruction time during practice Tuesday. It paid off Wednesday night.
The Warriors (13-4), ranked No. 4 in Class 3A, trailed Waterloo West (8-10), 1-0, midway through the second half at Kingston Stadium. It had been a frustrating game for Washington. It allowed a first-half goal and then spent almost 40 minutes failing to convert chance after chance, sending passes just a few inches too long or a few too short.
But then All-American midfielder Austin Bergstrom curved a shot past the goalie from the right side of the field to tie the game.
“It’s really hard to get individual instruction during practices,” Graham said. “But we did [Tuesday] night, and we went over exactly that shot. That’s why you do it. It’s a hard shot, but Austin stepped up like a captain does.”
“I looked over at coach after I put it in,” Bergstrom said. “It was a fun moment.”
The game went to overtime and eventually penalty kicks, which Washington won 5-4, to advance to the substate final Saturday with a 2-1 victory.
Sophomore goalie Gunnar Lenzen made a diving save on West’s third penalty kick when senior Jon Schmadeke couldn’t sneak the ball past him.
“I just watched his plant foot, and I knew which way to jump,” Bergstrom said. “I was just thinking about what I had to do right to keep the ball out of the net.”
Then, fittingly, Bergstrom had a chance to play the hero again. The senior, who has signed to play at Ohio State, kept his prep career alive by hitting the back of the net.
The Wahawks gave Washington all it could handle behind the play of goalie Donnie Ticknor. Graham called Ticknor “a D-I goalie.”
Washington wasn’t the only favorite to need penalty kicks to advance to a substate final. Fifth-ranked Cedar Rapids Kennedy (14-3) fell behind 1-0 to Dubuque Hempstead in the second game at Kingston.
Hempstead used its speed to challenge the Cougars, keeping the game even through two overtime periods. But junior goalie Nathan Althoff, who won four games this season in penalty kicks, made it five in the swirling rain, saving the first two Hempstead chances and sending his team to the final Saturday against Linn-Mar.