Girls Soccer: Armstrong Scores 4, Xavier Gets To State
By Jeremiah Davis (Story) and Scott Saville (Video), TV9 Sports
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Last season, there was only one goal and one focus for the Cedar Rapids Xavier girls' soccer team: a record seventh state championship. They accomplished that goal, but immense pressure and a lack of one key element rode shotgun on the trip to Muscatine and back.
Fast forward to almost a year later, the pressure is off the Xavier girls (16-1), and they're having plenty of it. The Saints blew past Waverly-Shell Rock 4-0 in the Class 2A regional final last night at Heco Field.
"When they got the seventh last year, they felt a lot of relief because now they've got the record," said coach Bailey Dorrington. "(The pressure) is not even in their heads. We don't even talk about it.
"We try to keep them focused on things that are important, which is having fun, working as a team, moving the ball; because they need to enjoy this. What happened last year is a lot of the pressure got in the way and it kind of ruined the fun for them. They're just really enjoying this year for themselves."
One player specifically who's having the most fun is senior Kayla Armstrong, who was clearly the best player on a field with two teams that had a combined three losses all season.
Armstrong tallied all four of Xavier's goals in the win against the Go-Hawks (14-3), including one on a penalty shot, and made sure the record streak – and the fun – didn't end this season.
"If we're too serious, we definitely psyche ourselves out, and I don't feel like we come out ready to play," Armstrong said. "Incorporating fun into the game has really helped this season to just shake it off and not get in our own head mentally."
Dorrington doted over her star senior, saying Armstrong has dealt with pressure all four years, and has handled it extremely well.
Emphasizing that fun factor to Armstrong was especially crucial, Dorrington said, and she has proven players can have fun and see success at the same time.
"She's set a standard, and the good thing is she still has fun," Dorrington said. "She set a standard that you can work hard, get there (and be successful) and do it and still have fun at the same time."
Dorrington, a well-documented part of the 2005-06 Saints who started the streak of state titles, didn't limit the fun to just her players when reflecting after the game.
She's having a blast living vicariously through her players, but is making a concerted effort to keep things in perspective.
"To be honest, I don't want it to get in the way and distract me from the way that I coach," Dorrington said. "There are certain things that I will not do. I'm not going to ruin the fun of their season just so we can win."
Still, this season's ride isn't finished. The Saints know they have to take care of business – that old cliché of "one game at a time" was uttered more than once – and believe the carefree attitude they've carried all season will only help when they get to Des Moines.
The burden of breaking the championship record was lifted last season, and that one thing missing is all they need now.
"The reason I mention fun a lot is because at the beginning of the season, we met with the seniors and the captains, and the whole goal was to not have what happened last year," Dorrington said. "It's not easy being Xavier. You've got a target on your back every single game, no matter what.
"Now we need to finish this era and move on."