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Jim Ecker, President & Editor

Kea steers Prairie to substate finals

Dave Kea did not know all of his players' names at Cedar Rapids PrairieĀ when he became the new head coach of the girls soccer team on the eve of the 2015 season in April.

Doug Graham, who recruited Kea to coach the goal-keepers this year, stepped aside as the head coach just a few days before the season began and Kea was thrust into the job.

He was still learning their names and suddenly he was the boss.

"I still have trouble," Kea admitted Wednesday night. "I sometimes call them the wrong name, but they understand."

Winning helps.

The Hawks made a smooth transition to their new coach and are now one victory away from reaching the Class 3A state tournament for the first time in school history.

Prairie defeated Jefferson, 1-0, in the regional semifinals Wednesday on a free kick by Hannah Kousheh and will visit second-ranked Iowa City West for a berth in the state tournament Monday night.

The Hawks are ranked No. 6 in the state with a 13-3 record, so changing coaches at the last minute did not hurt a bit.

"Everybody was thinking it was going to be hard," said Kousheh, "but honestly when it happened I think it made us all that much more determined to come out and do well in the season. We made the transition amazingly.

"The first practice we came out and had one of the best practices I've seen us have."

Kea is new at Prairie, but he's no neophyte. He's been a club soccer coach and has helped with national teams.

"I think we took really well to losing the first coach," said Mackenzie Serbousek, who leads Class 3A in scoring with 24 goals. "Dave Kea obviously worked with us pretty well. I'm really proud of everyone. We stepped up and had a great season.

"We lost a couple of games, but against ranked teams," she noted. "So you can't really complain."

Prairie's three losses have been to No. 2 Iowa City West, No. 3 Dubuque Hempstead and No. 4 Kennedy. The Hawks lost to Iowa City West, 2-1, in the third game of the season April 21 when Kea was really struggling with everyone's name.

Prairie has nine seniors in the starting lineup and excellent talent. Kousheh will play next year at the University of Iowa and Serbousek will play at Wisconsin-Whitewater.

"This is their season," Kea said of the 12th graders. "We've got strong leadership with so many seniors on this team."

Jefferson gave Prairie a good battle Wednesday night despite its 5-13 final record. The game was scoreless until there were only 12 minutes, 33 seconds left in the second half.

Cayla Renwick of Prairie was tripped by a Jefferson player near the Prairie goal and the official awarded the Hawks a free kick, just 20 yards from the net. Kousheh sized up the defense and fired a shot into the left corner for her eighth goal of the season.

"I just saw a gap on the left side of the goal," said Kousheh. "We've been practicing that. I just aimed for it and it went in."

Jefferson keeper Maddy Webber stopped all the other shots, including a spectacular diving save when she was horizontal to the ground and caught the ball in mid-air like an NFL receiver, but Kousheh's shot found a perfect spot before Webber had time to fully react.

Kendra Gaskill pitched a shutout in goal for Prairie at the other end of John Wall Field.

The Prairie seniors have reached the substate finals for the fourth straight year. The Prairie boys will play in the state tournament for the first time in school history this week and now the Prairie girls are looking for their initial trip to state as well.

"It's our last go-round, so we're giving it everything we've got," said Kousheh.

"That's what the goal was from the beginning of the season," said Serbousek. "We wanted to go to state so bad, especially the seniors.

"We've been to the final round of substate every single year since I was a freshman. We've always been right there every time. We're just hoping this year we get it."

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 03 June 2015 21:53 )  

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