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DES MOINES – The spotlight of a state championship match can sometimes be too bright for a freshman.
For Regina freshman Alec Wick playing on the state’s biggest stage proved to be the perfect opportunity to announce himself as a legitimate star.
Wick scored a pair of goals, including the game winner in the 55th minute as top-ranked Regina (18-3) won its second straight Class 1A state title with a 2-1 win over No. 9 Des Moines Christian (17-2) on Saturday at Cownie Soccer Complex in Des Moines.
“It’s great, I just love it, it means a lot to be a part of it,” Wick said. “Last year I was waiting for a chance to be a part of this.”
The two title-game goals capped a huge week for Wick and helped Regina remain unbeaten in state title games with its seventh title all in the last 10 years.
Wick scored four of Regina’s seven goals and added an assist in his first appearance at the three-day state tournament.
“He has really shown himself this week as a freshman,” said Regina senior and 1A all-tournament team captain Nick Pechous. “I want him to come in next year and take over my number and keep on the tradition here. I think he is going to have a great career.”
Wick picked the perfect time to prove himself as one of the most dynamic players in Class 1A.
After scoring 11 goals during the regular season his four goals at state trailed only the seven by Des Moines Christian senior Ben Webster.
“I think the big thing for Alec is the confidence that he and his teammates have in one another,” Regina coach Rick Larew said. “That is the big thing is that they have confidence and trust in one another.”
The biggest goals of the tournament and season for Wick came on Saturday.
Wick nearly gave Regina a lead in the 25th minute but his shot from point-blank range richocheted off the legs of Des Moines Christian keeper Josh Swanson.
A little more than seven minutes later Wick did break through, slipping a shot with his left foot to the back post and past Swanson.
“I knew it was a chance and I had to capitalize on it and it didn’t happen,” Wick said of his early miss. “I flushed it and we played through it.”
Webster provided the equalizer for Des Moines Christian less than three minutes later, scoring his state-leading 61st goal on a penalty kick resulting from a foul in the box in the 35th minute.
Regina missed a chance to take the lead back in the 50th minute when Swanson came up with a diving save of a Pechous penalty kick after a foul inside the box.
Swanson dove to his right to smother the low shot from Pechous.
“I took my steps back and hit the ball wrong but right after I was confident in my guys,” Pechous said. “I was confident we could go get another one because we were playing great all game.”
Pechous proved to be right as Wick provided the game-winner in the 55th minute.
He raced through an opening in the middle of field to chase down a deep through ball and calmly beat Swanson for the second time with a shot to the back post.
“There was a great ball through the middle and I hit the gap,” Wick said. “It was just one-on-one with the goalie.”
The Regina defense took care of the rest.
Regina limited a Des Moines Christian attack that entered with a state-best 129 goals to a season low scoring output.
The Lions scored four goals in each of their first two state tournament games but had a hard time mounting chances against a stout Regina backline.
“We knew this was a great team and we knew they were very offensive-minded so we knew we had to be right on their back,” Regina senior Mason Welter said. “We knew if we gave them any space they would hit one in and I think we did a good job.”
Regina closed the season with nine straight wins posting five shutouts and allowing six goals during that stretch.
“Our kids responded like they have all season, they just kept playing hard,” Larew said. “Sometimes you win and sometimes you don’t but they always keep playing hard.”
The seventh state title pulls Regina even with Cedar Rapids Xavier for the second most all-time and is two behind West High for the most in state history.
“We’ve just had great kids Just great kids,” Larew said. “I have nothing to do with it they are just great kids, they buy into the system and they are just great kids.”