Muscatine, Ia. — A season after finding success in Class 2-A, the Waukee Warriors made the leap to a higher class.
In their first season in Class 3-A, the Warriors have landed comfortably.
Fifth-ranked Waukee knocked off No. 4 Dowling Catholic 1-0 in a Class 3-A state girls’ soccer quarterfinal match at the Muscatine Soccer Complex on Thursday night.
“It was definitely more a challenge to make it to state this year,” Waukee junior Ellie Bunz said.
The Warriors (14-5) advance to today’s semifinal where they’ll take on top-ranked Ankeny, the defending champions, at 7:15 p.m.
It’s a spot they’ve been in before. Last season, the Warriors rolled through the state tournament, advancing to the Class 2-A finals before losing to six-time state champion Cedar Rapids Xavier.
Waukee’s 2012 season has come with trials and tribulations, including a 1-0 loss to Ames, a match Bunz called a changing point in the season.
“We just learned how to play better as a team,” Bunz said.
Now, they’re enjoying success.
The Warriors, winners of their last four, got to the state tournament by beating Ames in the regional semifinal.
Then they clinched a spot in the state tournament by beating No. 6 West Des Moines Valley.
“They’ve grown immensely in the last three months,” Waukee coach Tony Gabriel said.
The Warriors took a 1-0 lead in the first half when Bunz blasted a penalty kick goal into the net in the 31st minute. They never looked back.
“Important to strike first and be in a defensive mode and make sure that we stop any counter-attack and go from there,” Gabriel said.
Waukee avenged a 3-0 loss to the Maroons on April 16.
“I thought we had the weapons to beat them,” Dowling Catholic coach J.P. Pearson said.
Dowling Catholic (13-6) lost in the quarterfinal round for the second straight season.
“I’ve got to find a way for Dowling Catholic to get by this,” Pearson said. “I can’t keep coming up here and getting beat in the first round.”
Bunz said she felt many people didn’t think the Warriors could get back to the state tournament finals.
She’s relishing the opportunity to prove them wrong.
“It feels really good,” she said.
Waukee 1 0–1
Dowling Catholic 0 0–0
First half–Bunz (penalty kick) 30:53.