DES MOINES — The road to an Iowa City West three-peat is still intact.
The No. 2 and third-seeded Trojans blanked West Des Moines Valley, 2-0, on Thursday to earn a berth to the state semifinal against fellow Mississippi Valley Conference member Cedar Rapids Washington.
And though, on paper, it might look like another run-of-the-mill state tournament victory for the winners of four of the last five state titles, Valley made West work for it with attack after attack. Once the Trojans got up, 2-0, they camped their defense in the back third of the field to ward off the Tigers’ offense.
With that came several Valley opportunities from set positions and floated cross passes in an effort to head one past West goalkeeper Zach Serovy.
“Those set pieces that just get lofted up in the air like that, it’s not something that we excel at,” said West Coach Brad Stiles. “We don’t have a lot of height or jumping ability and I thought for sure a header would get nodded in, or get redirection and would fall at somebody’s feet. I thought Serovy did a good job of cleaning up all the second touches, and we did enough to win.”
Controlling the middle of the field was West’s idea from the outset.
Having a goalkeeper in net who can see how things are unfolding in front of him is ever-important come state tournament time, and Serovy managed the game well for the Trojans.
That became especially important after Ted Paulsen made it 2-0 on a rocket from the left corner of the box at 61:46. West’s strategy shift put even more of the onus on Serovy, and he rose to the occasion.
“I just try and make sure they see the guy on the back side at all times,” Serovy said. “We were trying to make sure we had everybody in the middle covered — especially No. 7 (Jordan Lucas), because we knew he was a pretty good player and he could shoot the ball. We were just trying to make sure we had him in check and pretty much the back side. That’s kind of my job is to turn their heads and see the back side.”
The Trojans got their first score on a shot from a deflection by Alex Bode at 17:46.
The goal came on a streak from the West offense, as the game was played in the middle third of the field for the majority of the first half. The physical nature of the game was something Stiles warned his players to be ready for, but said sometimes players can’t fully understand until they experience it.
Mental toughness from a squad that has some new faces in key roles was important, and Stiles was happy to see the young guys rose to the occasion.
“It was definitely a physical match. I had to remind these guys several times that it was not going to be easy and they were going to get their toughness challenged,” Stiles said. “I think they did a good job of staying mentally in the game. We didn’t have a lot of retaliation fouls or fouls even to start, so I think that just comes from the senior class being here a couple times.”
Even with a shutout victory, Stiles saw things the Trojans need to work on before their semifinal match against Washington on Friday at 5:05 p.m.
Stiles said West got away with a few turnovers on the defending third of the field, which could cost them dearly as the rounds go on. He attributed some of it to the inexperience of about half his squad, and said with a game under their belt he’s not worried about the corrections being made.
“It’s just more along the line of trying to pass it to us. There were a couple times we did a great job to win the ball and turned around and passed it to the other team,” Stiles said. “It’s just something that, once they get a little more composure and settle down, I think that’ll be in our favor.”
l Comments: (319) 368-8884; firstname.lastname@example.org