DES MOINES — Xavier’s drive for a ninth consecutive state girls state soccer title remains alive thanks to a shutdown defense and the prettiest shot this side of the World Cup.
Katie Ives’ 35-yard free kick in the 52nd minute hit the bottom of the crossbar and caromed into the net for a 1-0 victory over Ankeny Centennial in the Class 1A quarterfinal round at Cownie Soccer Park. The third-ranked Saints (11-7) will play No. 2 North Scott (16-4) today at 2:30 p.m.
North Scott plays in the 3A Mississippi Athletic Conference so it’s in the tournament well-seasoned just like the Saints.
Xavier Coach Bailey Winter dismissed talk that her team might feel pressure from the streak.
“They feel the same pressure as any other team here,” Winter said. “Pressure to win one game at a time and keep going on and not have to go home and end the season.”
The game was scoreless until senior forward Marissa Berutti was fouled in the 52nd minute to set up Ives’ shot.
“That was pretty, very pretty,” Winter said. “Katie Ives, that’s kind of her shot, her thing. And it was a really good play by Marissa to fight for the ball and get the foul.”
Berutti was banged around all day at the point of the Xavier attack, but this takedown resulted in a free kick with the wind and in Ives’ range.
“Me and this girl were battling for the ball and she fouled me, and I looked at the ref and he called it,” Berutti said.
Ives took the kick.
“It’s one of those things we definitely practice a lot because it gives us opportunities to be really aggressive,” Ives said of the free kick. “I just tried to get it on goal and give my team an opportunity, but as soon as I saw it go in I was a happy person.”
The Jaguars threatened only one more time when Kayla Grenier hit the cross bar on a long blast in the 72nd minute.
The wind was blowing at 20 mph and gusting stronger. The Jaguars took advantage of the wind to keep the ball in the Saints’ half of the field for the first 40 minutes.
But they could not score nor even really threaten because of the play of keeper Holly Hazelton and the back line of Grace McDermott, Lizzie Bailey, Jenny Dickes, Elizabeth Fischer and Sydney Wright.
The Jaguars were taller and stronger at just about every position, but the feisty Saints didn’t give an inch.
“It was really tough; they were a great team,” Bailey said. “We had to cover for each other, talk to each other, communicate.”
By the same token, the wind was finally at the Saints’ back, and Ives took full advantage on the game’s biggest play.
“In the first half it was quite a big factor because it was blowing away from the goal so it was hard to shoot,” Ives said. “In the second half, it definitely helped us a lot.”