Chris Allen took the Ankeny girls’ soccer team to a state tournament in 2009 for the first time.
The Hawkettes arrive at the Muscatine Soccer Complex today as a veteran team.
Top-ranked Ankeny, making its fourth straight appearance, headlines 17 teams returning for the three-day tournament that kicks off today.
“I look at the group that made it through and it’s pretty similar to what made it through last year,” Allen said. “So, I think everybody’s going to come in at the top of their game and ready.”
The Hawks, last season’s winners, lead the way in Class 3-A.
Top-ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier will aim for a record seventh straight title in Class 2-A.
Davenport Assumption, ranked No. 1 in Class 1-A, also seeks a second-straight title.
Plenty of familiar faces return. Seven teams from last season’s state tournament have qualified in 3-A. Five from a season ago are in 2-A and five in 1-A.
Xavier coach Doug Graham said teams no longer build for the present, but for the future.
Fans are seeing the fruits of those labors.
“Teams return because of the coaching staff, and the coaching staff understands what they need to do for their teams,” Graham said.
Experience, Graham said, is crucial.
Graham empties his bench throughout each season, allowing each player some experience.
They learn something he can’t teach in practice.
“I definitely want to get them involved in games so they get experience,” he said. “We lose players every year, so we have to develop the players that we have.”
Allen provided plenty of state tournament experience with two of the Hawkettes’ matches heading to shootouts last season.
After graduating nine starters from Ankeny’s first title team, the Hawkettes, 18-0, still have plenty of experienced players.
“It’s an advantage,” Allen said. “The first year we made it, we were kind of eyes wide open. And then the next year, we had loftier goals. And then last year, when we won it, it was pure focus and the kids knew what it would take.”
No one may know more than Xavier what it takes.
A seventh straight title for the Saints would be the longest consecutive streak in any girls’ sport.
Only two other programs have won six in a row: Cedar Falls swimming (1993-98) and Bettendorf tennis (1995-2000).
“I’m really nervous,” Xavier senior Annie Dale said. “It’s a lot of pressure.”
That’s what Graham has been preparing them for — for years.
“The destination isn’t a state cup,” Graham said. “The journey is the destination, so we’re going to enjoy it.”
5:00 — Cedar Rapids Kennedy (14-4) vs. Iowa City West (17-2)
5:15 — Johnston (15-4) vs. Bettendorf (17-2)
5:30 — Waukee (13-5) vs. W.D.M. Dowling Catholic (12-5)
5:45 — Linn-Mar (Marion) (13-6) vs. Ankeny (18-0)
7:00 — Cedar Rapids Kennedy or Iowa City West vs. Johnston or Bettendorf
7:15 — Waukee vs. W.D.M. Dowling Catholic vs. Linn-Mar (Marion) or Ankeny
4:00 — Semifinal winners
2:30 — Pella (16-3) vs. Sioux City East (17-1)
2:45 — ADM (Adel) / Van Meter (14-3) vs. Cedar Rapids Xavier (15-2)
3:00 — Union (LaPorte City) (15-3) vs. Glenwood (17-1)
3:15 — Dallas Center-Grimes (15-2) vs. North Scott (10-9)
4:30 — Pella or Sioux City East vs. ADM (Adel)/Van Meter or Cedar Rapids Xavier
4:45 — Union (LaPorte City) or Glenwood vs. Dallas Center-Grimes or North Scott
1:30 — Semifinal winners
Noon — Nevada (14-4) vs. Gilbert (15-3)
12:15 — Center Point-Urbana (14-5) vs. Davenport Assumption (20-0)
12:30 — Iowa City Regina (14-3) vs. Sioux City Heelan (15-1)
12:45 — Council Bluffs St. Albert (16-4) vs. Waterloo Columbus (19-0)
2:00 — Nevada or Gilbert vs. Center Point-Urbana or Davenport Assumption
2:15 — Iowa City Regina or Sioux City Heelan vs. Council Bluffs St. Albert vs. Waterloo Columbus
11:00 a.m. — Semifinal winners