CORALVILLE - For 40 minutes Saturday afternoon, you couldn't tell who had the No. 1 boys soccer team in the state and who was ranked 16th.
Unfortunately for Kennedy, a penalty kick turned the match in Iowa City West's favor and helped send the top-ranked Trojans to the Class 3A state meet.
Iowa City West clipped the 16th-ranked Cougars, 2-0, in the substate finals on a warm, breezy day at Northwest Junior High School in Coralville.
Ben Troester scored on a point-blank penalty kick from 12 yards with 10:55 left in the first half to give Iowa City West a 1-0 lead. Kennedy keeper Ben Feltes made a leaping attempt to block the shot, but the ball found the upper right-hand corner of the goal.
Kennedy Coach Mike Robertson called it a "questionable" penalty that produced a decisive goal.
"And that's being nice. That's being real nice," said Robertson. "Unfortunately that changes the nature of the game. Now we have to chase the game and they're able to just launch counters and stuff.
"That whole first half, we had them back on their heels. Our guys were really pushing it."
The penalty was called on defender Killian Magee. "I really have no idea why," said Robertson. "I know of nowhere where that's a foul.
"Now don't get me wrong," he added. "I'm not trying to take away from West. They're a great team. And it was a great match."
Kennedy (9-9) caught a bad break with 25 minutes left in the second half when a shot by Eric Bertroche hit the crossbar and bounced away, preventing the Cougars from tying the game.
Iowa City West (18-1) clinched the victory when Steve Kim used his body to nudge the ball past Feltes for a 2-0 lead with 15:03 left to play. Feltes made several brilliant saves for the Cougars, but the two balls that got away ended Kennedy's campaign.
"I'm just really proud of my teammates," said Feltes, who will play at
Eastern Illinois next year. "They came to play and they fought to the last
"They're a great team, but so are we," he said. "We knocked the ball around."
Ryan Walker, a pint-sized freshman, helped lead Kennedy's attack with his excellent footwork and quickness. He was the smallest guy on the pitch, but one of the biggest players.
"I'm 5-1 and like 100 on a good day," he said.
Walker wore No. 7 Saturday instead of his regular No. 11, because the No. 11 jersey he was given for the substate finals was too large and drooped all over him. Riley Galbraith, who normally wears No. 7 for Kennedy, did not play because he was busy finishing second in the state tennis tournament in Cedar Rapids.
"It was a big deal to wear his jersey," said Walker.
Iowa City West defeated Kennedy twice this year, both times by counts of 2-0.
Iowa City West will face Sioux City West in the quarterfinals of the Class 3A state tournament Thursday in Des Moines. Ames will play Ankeny, Iowa City High will meet West Des Moines Valley, and Johnston will play Bettendorf in the other first-round matches.
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