The longer the match lasted, the clearer it became that one team was going to have its heart broken.
Dubuque Senior did the breaking.
Sam Noel, Hunter Preston, Sawyer Feller and Adam Wessels scored in a penalty kick shootout, and the Rams outlasted Independence, 2-1, in their Iowa Class 3A substate quarterfinal on Monday at Dalzell Field.
Senior won the shootout, 4-2. Wessels’ goal sealed it for the Rams, and delivered some personal redemption in the process.
“I was nervous,” he admitted. “We played against (Cedar Rapids) Xavier and went to PKs with them and I was the first one to take it and I missed. During this game, during that moment, that’s all I could think about. When it went in I was just like, dang. I surprised myself.”
Senior (6-10), which won in the substate tournament for the first time in at least four seasons, advanced to play at No. 4-ranked Pleasant Valley (14-1) in Wednesday’s semifinal.
“We’ve been building toward this for literally the whole season,” Rams coach James Culotta said. “We played some really good teams really tough. But winning now our third in a row, it just feels good that (the hard work) is paying off. Going through those peaks and valleys of the season, and now to find some success in the win column instead of possession and creating good opportunities, it definitely feels good.”
But it certainly wasn’t easy as Independence (10-7) took an early lead on Sean Geertsma’s goal in the 25th minute.
The lead held until midway through the second half, when Noel slotted home the equalizer on a cross from Brayden Atkinson.
But neither team could gain an advantage from there as the teams battled for 100 minutes before sending it to the shootout.
“I’m proud of my team,” Wessels said. “We played a hard game. Going down, 1-0, and then coming back to tie it and then staying with it and not allowing any goals in overtime, after the game it was just unreal.”
Senior outshot the Mustangs, 26-11, and finished with a 10-5 advantage in shots on goal.
C.J. Clarke made four saves to earn the win for Senior.
But he didn’t need to make a save in the shootout as two of the Mustangs’ four attempts missed the frame.
Rito Mino made nine saves for Independence, including a pair of highlight-reel diving stops to keep the score level.
Now the Rams try to stop Pleasant Valley, which has won 14 straight matches since a season-opening 1-0 loss to Dubuque Wahlert.
“We’re not afraid of anybody in the state,” Culotta said. “We’ve already played the best teams in the state. I’m sure Pleasant Valley will be a challenge, but we’re not going to come in scared of them.”