DES MOINES — It's safe to say Cedar Rapids Xavier's Kayla Armstrong thrives in state semifinals and championship games.
For the second time in about three months, Armstrong turned in a dazzling final two games to lead her team to a championship. Following up on Friday's hat trick, Armstrong scored four goals in her top-rated team's 5-0 Class 2-A championship victory against No. 3 Sioux City East on Saturday at Cownie Soccer Park. It was Xavier's eighth straight state title, an Iowa record.
“She's a special player,” East coach Tyler Mogensen said. “We tried our best to slow her down, but she's virtually unstoppable.”
A Drake soccer recruit, Armstrong carried Xavier to the 4-A basketball title in March. In a semifinal win against Sioux City Heelan, she had 22 points on 9-of-11 shooting to go with seven rebounds, seven assists and five steals. In a 53-52 championship game victory against Harlan, she had 23 points on 10-of-12 shooting with six steals and scored the game-winning basket with nine seconds left.
Armstrong was asked what semifinal and final performances impressed her more.
“I'd definitely say I was more surprised by my basketball,” said a smiling Armstrong, who averaged eight points a game. “They're both incredibly special. They're two different sports, two different teams, so it's two different feelings.”
In their third straight state appearance and fourth overall, the Black Raiders finished 18-3 after the deepest run in school history.
Defender Christina Hackbart, one of four East seniors and a four-year starter, said she'll remember many more things about the season ahead of the final score.
“New girls come in and girls leave, but this team right here has gone above and beyond to get us to this point,” she said. “Regardless of the score, we showed who we were and we played really hard.”
Armstrong scored in the fifth, 15th and 26th minutes in the first half as the Saints led 3-0 at the intermission. Her third goal was the most impressive, as she flicked a long, high ball near her waist into the net.
“They pounced on our mistakes,” Mogensen said.
The coach was asked to analyze the game hypothetically, if Armstrong hadn't been on the field. His answer revealed the talent level of the other Xavier players.
“I think they probably still would have had the edge a little bit,” he said. “You take her away, I think it's a one-goal game.”
Despite the loss, Mogensen said it's invaluable for his young players to experience a state championship game.
“They see the caliber of teams that we play, and hopefully it will inspire them for next year and want to work harder and maybe win it,” he said.
Hackbart said if the Black Raiders are able to take that final step in the coming years, she won't be surprised.
“I think next year they'll have an even better team,” she said. “I'm looking forward to great things coming from them.”
Three East underclassmen made the all-tournament team: juniors Caitlin Foley and Eliot Sayavong and sophomore Kylee Goodvin. They joined Xavier's Sarah Chiccelly, Sammi Shepard, Elizabeth Bailey and captain Armstrong, along with Mallory Lynch and Bri Schroder of Pella and Bekah Allen and Stephanie D'Cruz of Pleasant Valley.
Sioux City East (18-3) ......................... 0 0—0
Cedar Rapids Xavier (19-1) ................ 3 2—5
Goals: CRX, Kayla Armstrong 4, Brylee Bastain.
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