WATERLOO — Columbus Catholic (9-8) will end an adversity-filled season in Des Moines at the Class 1A boys’ state tournament.
The Sailors earned their trip to state with a 3-1 win over the Hudson Pirates (9-8) on Wednesday night in the class 1A substate ¬¬3 final.
Columbus head coach William Maletta described the tournament berth as an accomplishment of the Sailors’ 11 seniors.
“It means everything because it is what the culture I have tried work on building here,” Maletta said. “We have always set the goal at the beginning of the year to make a substate final. Get ourselves here and give ourselves a chance to get to the state tournament.”
“It is an overall accomplish of these seniors, stepping into the culture of all the guys that have come before them. They are brothers…It means everything to them and me for these guys to show their worth and get down to the state tournament.”
People are also reading…
Maletta continued and highlighted the contributions of Kyle McCray and Khen Tee, who stepped up in the middle of the season.
“I cannot state how important they are,” Maletta said. “The ups and downs and the loss of a few players—Here they are playing key roles…They were not even sure they would be playing varsity minutes to being starters.”
On Wednesday night, the Sailors took an early lead as senior Simeon Hasselbrook sent a ball to the top left corner of the Hudson cage to put Columbus on top 1-0 in the 13th minute of action.
Hudson managed to knot the score 11 minutes later as Andy Langham managed the equalizer. Columbus nearly cleared the ball in time, but an official ruled the ball crossed the line.
Gavin Reed broke the tie with two minutes remaining in the first half. John Pranger lofted a free kick into the penalty area. Jonathan Hackett passed the ball back to Reed who beat the Hudson keeper with a shot to the top right corner.
“We always struggle at some moments,” Reed said. “Being able to take a lead, especially when the first game we faced these guys we lost 2-0, so it had a good feeling.”
The Sailors picked up where they left off and scored six minutes into the second half. Pranger directed a throw in off his head and into the net for an insurance marker.
Pranger, a captain for the Sailors, said the goal, though not the game-winner, played a massive role in the final outcome.
“It gave us a good brace,” Pranger said. “To get that one nice quick in that second half, we were able to calm down a little bit and keep them in front of us the whole game. We worked hard as a team and got it up.”
With their state tournament berth secured and a season of adversity behind them, Pranger and Reed said it spoke volumes that the Sailors managed to advance to the final eight.
“We had a lot of ups and downs this year,” Pranger said. “Just to get to state—We got a great group of guys…To get back [to state] is a great feeling. It show that hard work will pay off.”
“Even with though we do not have the best team, you can do something,” Reed said. “You can make it to the state tournament even if you do not have a good start of the year. If you just finish out well, you can make it there.”
Given their record, Maletta predicts the Sailors will enter the tournament as its seventh or eighth seed and accordingly face No. 1 Gladbrook-Reinbeck/Grundy Center or No. 2 Regina Catholic in the first round.
Columbus previously lost to the Rebels 4-1 and 5-0, but Maletta noted that Wednesday’s result shows the Sailors are not concerned about previous outcomes.
“This shows them that they are capable of winning,” Maletta said. “This is confirmation that they are capable of overcoming those bumps that we had in the middle of the season or early season…We are in a new season. That is what we have been preaching to them.”
“If you start now, you do not have to worry about that old stuff. It is a fresh season. We can do this together. We can grind through games together. It might not be perfect, but we can do it.”