DES MOINES, Iowa — Isabella Burger is all about moving forward.
The Spencer High School junior and her teammates did not have the kind of day they had hoped for at the Class 2A state soccer tournament Thursday, but just minutes after concluding a 3-0 loss to Cedar Rapids Xavier at Cownie Soccer Complex, Burger was thinking about next season.
“We are ready for it now because we have all experienced it,” Burger said. “We all know what it is going to be like and not just one or two age groups.”
This was a learning lesson.
“When it gets tough and we get back to our habits our habits need to be those things we have worked on,” she said. “We need to do that in easier games so we can do it on the big stage against teams that are that level of competitors.”
The fifth-seeded Saints came into the quarterfinal with a 14-4 record, but that is a bit deceiving given the fact their schedule is largely made up of Class 3A teams.
Xavier showed its speed and size from the opening whistle and never slowed down against a young Spencer team with just two seniors.
“I think we came out a little nervous, a little afraid,” Spencer head coach John Hansel said. “Our game all year has been to be the aggressor, and we didn’t attack with that mentality that we are going to take it to them. We kind of sat back and that is kind of disappointing that they didn’t have full confidence today.”
The first goal came in the 19th minute on a penalty kick that was the result of a handball in the box. Caitlynn Daniels beat Spencer goalkeeper Payton Cooper to make it 1-0, and the lead doubled two minutes later when Sophia Alessio sliced a ball into the back of the net.
Spencer, which came into the match leading the state in goal scoring, struggled to get shots off much less challenge for a goal for much of the game.
“They moved the ball really well, brought the game to us, and played the kind of game we like to play,” Hansel said.
Hansel said one of the keys going forward for his team will be learning to play with more physicality, which is a hallmark of seemingly every game at state. He also wants to see his team play with and against more speed by addressing that with future schedules.
The fourth-seeded Tigers were able to keep Xavier from expanding its lead but were outshot 14-2 in the first 40 minutes.
Brielle Bastian scored the lone goal of the second half as she roofed a ball just before the halfway point.
This was the second straight trip to the state tournament for the Tigers, who blanked both Spirit Lake (10-0) and Denison-Schleswig (9-0) to reach Des Moines.
Xavier (15-4) advances to face top-seeded ADM in a semifinal on Friday while Waverly-Shell Rock — the only other team to beat Spencer this season — also moved on to the semis.
Hansel was proud of his young team for its 19-2 campaign.
“The season was great,” he said. “Experience is the best teacher and returning almost everybody it is something they will learn from.”