DES MOINES – There’s a buzzword surrounding the Cedar Rapids Xavier girls soccer team: pressure.
Pressure? We’re talking about pressure?
Allen Iverson didn’t want to talk about practice, and head coach Bailey Dorrington is ready to be done talking about pressure after Xavier (18-1) advanced to its 10th straight state championship game with a 4-0 win against Pella in their Class 2A semifinal last night.
“They’re used to (the pressure). It’s been this way for how many years?” Dorrington said. “As soon as the freshmen come in, they learn right away, this is how it is. They get used to it, and then they’re fine.
“It’s just year after year, you get used to it. They’ve been here, they know the routine.”
While her coach gave a heavy sigh when asked about pressure, senior Kayla Armstrong simply shrugged. She echoed her coach, but in a way that made it seem like everyone should have already been aware her and her teammates were accustomed to the stress of being the Saints.
“As far as pressure goes, I don’t feel it,” Armstrong said. “Being Xavier, we always have a target on our backs. We’ve grown up having the pressure, so I wouldn’t say there’s any more now than there’s ever been.”
Despite the ad nauseam discussion of pressure, or lack-thereof, on the winners of seven straight soccer titles, Dorrington knows nerves play a role.
The Lady Dutch (18-2) put the Saints back on their heels in the beginning of the game with pressure – the literal kind – in the offensive end. If not for a diving save from Sarah Chicchelly, and some luck – a Pella shot bounced off the post – Xavier could’ve been looking at an early deficit.
“The most time I ever really notice it in the girls is in the first ten minutes of the game,” Dorrington said. “In the first ten minutes of this game, it could’ve been 2-0.…Once they calm down and get their composure, it seems to be fine.”
Whether the pressure on the team is real or not, the Saints responded as they have so many times over the years: with a dominant victory.
After the early fight from Pella, Xavier put the ball in net four times. Armstrong was up to her usual tricks after a frustrating quarterfinal, earning herself a hat trick. The other Saint goal came from fellow senior leader Sammi Shepard.
So media and fans can worry away about how Xavier will deal with any real or perceived pressure, because Dorrington and her team aren’t going to.
What they will do is prepare for Class 2A state championship opponent Sioux City East, and if things go according to plan, carry home their eighth straight state championship.
“There’s obviously pressure, but I haven’t been too concerned because I prepared the girls well,” Dorrington said. “If we do what we’re capable of doing, I think we can definitely win a state championship. I know that no one can beat us…but that’s if we take care of what we’re supposed to do.”