Defending Champion Regina Returns to Class 1A Title Match


Photo by Jeff Yoder

Ryan Murken

Your Prep Sports

DES MOINES – Rick Larew is on a roll.

Sure, the long-time Regina coach has his team back in the Class 1A state title game for an astounding seventh time in 10 seasons following a 2-0 semifinal win over No. 11 Gilbert (14-8) on Friday at Cownie Soccer Complex in Des Moines.

But the semifinal win didn’t just make top-ranked Regina 2-for-2 in state tournament contests this week or send the defending champion Regals back to the championship match for a second straight season.

It also kept Larew pre-match predictions perfect for the week.

Just as Larew promised before the match senior Nate Green started the scoring as Regina (17-3) seized control early for the second consecutive match with a pair of goals in the opening 20 minutes.

“We talked about it before the game and I said 'Nate you two-touch a ball you are going to slot it into the goal I promise you' and guess what, occasionally the coach is right,” Larew said. “Not very often but occasionally.”

Larew was right about plenty on Friday.

After Regina got three goals from its top two regular season goal scorers in a 3-0 quarterfinal win over Treynor on Thursday Larew proclaimed Friday it would be someone else that did the scoring.

That proved to be true and turned out to be the difference on Friday.

Green scored his fourth goal of the season less than 20 minutes in and less than three minutes later freshman Anthony Knepper scored his first career goal as Regina stretched its winning streak to eight.

“We said yesterday it could be someone else’s time and indeed that was the case,” Larew said. “We had some guys that they weren’t expecting step up.”

Regina will take on ninth-ranked Des Moines Christian (17-1) in the 1A title game at Noon on Saturday.

The Lions used three goals from the state’s top goal scorer Ben Webster to down sixth-ranked Williamsburg 4-1 in the other semifinal on Friday.

The Regals are 6-0 in state title games after edging Davenport Assumption 1-0 in last year’s championship match.

“It would be amazing to finish out on a high note,” Green said. “I can’t think of anything better it would be a great feeling.”

Alec Wick and Nick Pechous combined to score more than half of Regina’s regular season goals and had all three of the Regals’ scores in a quarterfinal win on Thursday.

Just as Larew predicted the scoring punch came early and from less likely sources on Friday.

“It helps having a lot of people that are really good,” Green said. “It’s a lot of passing, a lot of passing and moving and so it’s not one person that does all the work. We all do the work and we all benefit from it.”

It was Green that put Regina up early when he slotted home a shot from the left side of the box off a nifty feed from Wick.

“Someone on our right side played it to Alec, I knew what Alec was trying to do, Alec is not selfish I knew he was trying to pass it to me,” Green said. “I took a touch around the defender and just slotted it into the back of the net.”

Wick made a run into the box and laid off a pass for his senior teammate.

Green took care of the rest giving Regina a 1-0 lead less than 20 minutes in.

“He was making a run behind me and I knew he was there so flipped it back,” Wick said. “I knew he was going to put it away.”

Already with the momentum, Regina wasted little time putting a stranglehold on the match when Knepper scored less than three minutes later to make it 2-0.

Leonardo Gasparoni played a deep ball to Knepper who won the ball from a defender and slipped a shot from inside off the left post and in.

“A four-year starter Nate Green scores the first goal and Anthony Knepper comes in and scores our second and he is going to be a real player for us,” Larew said. “People don’t know much about him, he’s a very quiet kid, very determined, very competitive and to look at him you wouldn’t think so but he is going to be a great player for us and played well today on both ends of the field.”

The early goals were plenty for Regina who posted its second consecutive shutout and the fifth during its eight-match winning streak.