CEDAR RAPIDS – Mike Winker was asked the other day to try and put some perspective into the historical run his girls’ soccer program is on.
The Cedar Rapids Xavier activities director thought for a minute, then brought his niece’s name into the conversation. Bailey Dorrington played on the 2006 and 2007 Class 1A state championship teams at the school, got her diploma from Drake University and is now Xavier’s junior varsity coach.
The Saints haven’t lost a state tourney match that entire time.
“The possibility of nine state championship games in a row is something,” Winker said. “The thing that puts it into perspective for me is thinking of the girls who were on that first team and how old they are now.”
If Xavier wins the Class 2A title this weekend at Muscatine Soccer Complex, it’ll be its seventh state championship in a row. No school, regardless of girls’ sport, has won that many consecutive team titles.
As Winker mentioned, beating Adel-DeSoto-Minburn in today’s quarterfinals, then beating either Pella or Sioux City East in Friday’s semifinals puts Xavier into a championship game for an amazing ninth straight year. The Saints won the 2004 Class 1A title over Dubuque Wahlert, but lost the 2005 title game to the Golden Eagles.
All of this damage has been done in 1A, with the exception of last year, when the Iowa Girls’ High School Athletic Union increased the number of classes in the sport to three. Xavier jumped to 2A, though it hasn’t mattered.
“Very good soccer players, for one,” said Winker, who has another niece on this team, senior Katelyn Winker. “We always seem to have four or five seniors, four or five juniors, some sophomores and freshmen. The seniors have always been great to the underclassmen. Have accepted them and mentored them. It kind of has that college feel to it that way. The constant seems to be the seniors showing everyone else the way.”
That has continued with this team, which takes a 15-2 record to Muscatine.
“Coach took me and Mary (Levett) and Lauren (Konchar), the captains, the seniors, aside at the beginning of the year and said ‘You guys are the leaders. Every year who has stepped up? The seniors,’” senior striker Annie Dale said. “So we know what our job is. We remember when we were freshmen, we needed the same guidance. We’re just returning the favor.”
Four coaches have been included in this run, the latest Doug Graham. He’s an Englishman who played professionally in his home country before coming to the United States.
He seems to have a great rapport with his girls. He works them hard but always is there with compliments as well.
“I think, really, it’s just the mindset,” he said. “We know the only two things we can control are our attitude and our effort. The rest we can’t control. We try and give our very best there, and winning is a bonus.”
They’ve been getting a lot of bonuses over the years. And increasing pressure, for sure.
“It’s a good thing, though,” Dale said. “You can take it as a challenge, or hide from it, I guess. We’ll take it as a challenge.”
“This truly is a team, a whole team,” Graham said. “And they know that, too, and that’s how they act.”