By Pat Harty
Your Prep Sports
IOWA CITY – A sports dynasty is built over time, but happens from living in the moment and from not resting on your laurels.
That’s why Regina boys soccer coach Rick Larew never mentions his program’s dominance during the course of a season. He wants his current players to live in the moment and to think only about the next task ahead.
The Regals used that approach again on Saturday and the end result was yet another milestone moment as Regina whipped Williamsburg 4-0 in a Class 1A sub-state finale at Regina.
Regina will be making its 10th consecutive trip to the state tournament and will seek its sixth state title.
“We don’t talk about that at all,” Larew said of the streak. “But the tradition is if you look at my assistant coaches, all those kids are kids that won state tournaments. So everybody understands that’s part of what we’re about. But do we talk about it consciously? No.
“We talk about getting better for the next ten minutes. I’m not kidding you. We really don’t focus on anything except the next ten-minute drill. And if they screw up in that ten minutes, we stop them and say, ‘how can you achieve long-term goals if you can’t concentrate for ten minutes?”
Regina advanced to the state tournament despite having a roster filled with freshmen and sophomores and with just four seniors. There have been moments of inconsistency, but the players have stayed the course and stayed together.
“Each group of kids is different and has their challenges,” Larew said. “This group of kids is very young. They play hard. They work very hard. And like a lot of our kids, we have our ups and downs. When the kids are younger, we have more of the ups and downs.
“But they’ve worked very hard to get to this point. We’ll have to see how the state tournament turns out.”
Regina was a model of consistency on Saturday, scoring two goals in each 40-minute half.
Tony Huang and Kieler Brown scored the first two goals midway through the first half, while Zach Pechous scored both goals in the second half.
“I think, right now, we’re playing the best soccer we have all year,” Pechous said. “We started off a little slow (today), picked it up in the middle of the first half and then we just kept going from there on.”
The Regals might not talk about their prolonged success in soccer, but the players understand the circumstances and know what’s at stake.
“We have a target on our back,” Pechous said. “And we want to prove ourselves every year.”
Larew has surrounded himself with former Regina players as assistant coaches. His assistants serve as a constant reminder of the dynasty, but without having to mention it.
The current players grew up watching the assistant coaches compete for the Regals, so they respect and admire them.
“All of our coaches come in from winning state titles and being on the all-state teams and they come in with their knowledge and they just move it on to us, which is excellent,” said Pechous, who is a junior.
The current players, obviously, are pleased with earning another trip to the state tournament, but hardly satisfied. There was no wild post-match celebration on Saturday, not with a state title still left to be won.
Instead, the Regina players congratulated their opponent and each other before leaving the field.
Saturday’s victory was especially sweet for Tommy Rapp, who is one of the four seniors on the Regina roster. Rapp has been a multi-sport star for the Regals, but his senior year was marred by a knee injury that caused him to miss most of the football and basketball seasons.
Rapp is now healthy and headed back to Des Moines to compete in the state soccer tournament for one last time.
“First of all, I’m excited to have a good game the last time playing here on this field,” Rapp said. “It’s just exciting to extend the season with this team. It’s been a lot of fun to play with them.
“That’s the goal every year coming into a sport, to get a ring. So to have the opportunity to head to state and play for one is exciting.”
Rapp is used to playing in big games for Regina, and on big stages. He was the starting quarterback in football before injuring his knee.
Regina’s football dynasty, which includes winning six state titles in the last seven years, gets most of the attention, but the soccer program also stands tall.
“It’s really impressive,” Rapp said of Regina’s success in soccer. “The coaches have really created a dynasty here. And with the players that have been through the program and gone to state, when they come back and help coach, they really do a great with the players and teach them a lot.”