West High Storms Past No. 16 Cedar Falls in Substate Final to Return to State Tournament For Sixth Straight Season
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IOWA CITY – The season began in rather inauspicious fashion for West High with a 4-0 home loss to Ankeny Centennial.
It will end at the state tournament.
Sixth-ranked West High continued its torrid late-season push and secured a sixth consecutive state tournament appearance with a 6-1 win over No. 16 Cedar Falls in the Class 3A, Region 3 title game on Wednesday at wet and rainy Barker Field in Iowa City.
“The past two seasons it hasn’t been much of a question if we would be in this spot, I honestly took it for granted,” West High senior Miguel Cohen Suarez said. “This year I did have my doubts but that just makes it all the more rewarding to win this game.”
Since the four-goal loss to Ankeny Centennial in the season-opener West High (18-2) has won 18-of-19 matches including 14 straight after its substate final win over Cedar Falls (12-5).
West High will get to see just how far it has come since that April 1 loss to the Jaguars next week.
Two-time defending state runner-up West High will take on fifth-ranked Ankeny Centennial (15-3) in the 3A state tournament Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Cownie Soccer Complex in Des Moines.
“There was definitely a little nervousness after that 4-0 loss,” West High junior Michael Nelson said. “After that weekend playing two more games and winning them we got our motivation back and were ready for a good season and we haven’t slowed down.
There was no nervousness for West High or its fans on Wednesday as the Trojans put Cedar Falls away early.
Nelson and Cohen Suarez each scored twice in the first half and finished with three goals as West High secured its state-leading 22nd all-time appearance at the state tournament.
“Every year is different and these guys have been so coachable this season that it’s really kind of given me a spark,” long-time West High coach Brad Stiles said. “I think just having new faces and new personnel it’s been really good.”
West High took control early when Cohen Suarez scored the first of his two first-half goals off a Nelson assist in the 8th minute.
“We try to come out strong and capitalize on the first few minutes,” Nelson said. “We want to get the score up as quick as we can and play off that which we did.”
Senior goalkeeper Nicholas McDonnell was impressive early, keeping Cedar Falls off the board with numerous diving saves in the opening 20 minutes.
McDonnell stopped an Ian O’Loughlin shot from point blank range in the 10th minute to keep the scored 1-0.
Cedar Falls consistently created scoring opportunities in the opening 20 minutes, mostly off corner kicks and free kicks but McConnell turned away the Tigers on several opportunities.
He snagged a header by 3A leading scorer Truman Unruh off a corner with 23:11 left and had full extension on a diving stop on a Matthew Iehl header with 7:23 left in the opening half.
“Nick was unbelievable and every corner kick I honestly thought they could have scored six times off corners,” Stiles said. “It could have been 7-6 or something like that. They were dangerous in the air that’s for sure.”
As the Tigers loaded the box for scoring chances West High saw its opportunity to counter.
Nelson scored on a breakaway following a Cedar Falls corner in the 11th minute for his first goal and a 2-0 West High lead.
“We definitely talked about quick counters because that is something we are strong at,” Nelson said. “They have a lot of big people and they were going to pack the box and we thought we could flip that back at them.
Less than three minutes later Cohen Suarez struck again on a counter attack to put West High up 3-0.
Nelson made it 4-0 with his second goal of the match with 6:39 remaining in the opening half.
Iehl got Cedar Falls on the board with a header off a corner kick with 2:26 left in the first half.
The start of the second half was delayed more than an hour by a passing thunderstorm but West High picked up where it left off when play resumed under a light rain.
Nelson scored off a Cohen Suarez assist three minutes into the second half to push the lead to 5-0.
“We are really dangerous up top,” Cohen Suarez said. “Obviously Michael Nelson is a force to be reckoned with and we knew what we had to do and it worked once so why not do it again?”
Cohen Suarez capped the scoring when he took a short pass off a corner and dribbled along the end line before slipping in a shot with 15:53 left.