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Reiver men's, women's soccer teams celebrate national titles
Brad Silvey and Jordan Carver joined Iowa Western's first soccer program in 2004 as players. They took over its soccer programs in 2008 as first-time head coaches.
They celebrated its soccer programs Tuesday as national champions.
The Reiver soccer teams, which won NJCAA titles within 30 minutes of each other on Saturday night, were honored during an emotional celebration at Kanesville Arena.
The visibly drained coaches, who are not only former teammates but longtime friends, both broke down at times while congratulating their respective teams and praising one another.
"This is such an incredible moment for me... you have no idea," said Silvey, the women's coach, while addressing the men's team. Then he stopped. "I wasn't planning on crying."
It was that kind of night.
Women's captain Kasandra Anderson and men's All-American Will Lukowski carried the trophies as the champions entered the arena during halftime of a men's basketball game.
Prior to the ceremony, the coaches shared tales of their victories and the obstacles their teams overcame to achieve them. In the men's case, the Reivers were down a goal - and then a player - to Tyler (Texas) on its home field before winning the championship match on penalty kicks.
"I was in beast mode. My mind, my heart, my soul... everything was just about doing everything possible to win," Carver said. "I definitely turned into the Hulk in that game. I was going to will my team to victory if I could. I think everyone else did too."
In the end, Lukowski willed Iowa Western to victory by stopping Tyler's first penalty kick, clearing its second after it hit the crossbar then smothering its fourth to clinch the title.
Earlier this season, the All-American keeper said he felt jinxed because he had garnered personal accolades throughout his soccer career but had never been on a championship team.
His self-proclaimed curse no longer exists after claiming conference, regional and NJCAA titles.
"It's kind of surreal," he said. "To win three in a row after not winning any, it's pretty nice."
In a scene the men's program will never forget, Lukowski raced at his teammates after the final stop Saturday then ran away from them before surrendering to a dog pile on Tyler's home field.
The Reiver women had no such drama in their 3-1 championship victory over Navarro (Texas) in Melbourne, Fla. Their most intense moments came in a semifinal shootout and before.
In fact, No. 1 Iowa Western almost didnâ€™t make the national tournament. Brianne Richards scored a game-winning goal, mere seconds after a penalty-kick tally, to cap a last-minute rally by the Reivers in a 2-1 victory over rival Iowa Central in the Region XI title match.
It was the moment that defined a championship season.
"It's passed through my mind a whole lot," Richards said. "I think that's the moment that we realized that we were destined to win. Not just me scoring, but the fact that we won within a minute and 17 seconds. ...It was incredible. Everything was meant to happen the way it did."
That included a penalty-kicks victory over Laramie County (Wyo.) in the semifinals, which came a year after the Reivers had their season end in the same scenario in the same match at the tourney.
After battling to a scoreless draw through 110 minutes, Silvey replaced all-tournament keeper Kelsey East with Kayln Kaslon in a premeditated move that paid off with a thrilling victory.
"One of the things that I committed to this year was being as prepared as we possibly could for that moment in time," he said. "We had predetermined that Kayln was our goalkeeper specialist when it came down to penalty kicks. Nobody was surprised, at least not on our bench or in the coaching staff that the change occurred. We knew she was going to give us the best possible of chance of winning in any type of penalty shootout. And she delivered."
Kaslon stopped a pair of shots that put IWCC in the title match. The rest is Reiver history.
All-tournament defender Paige Flores, one of four Council Bluffs natives on the women's roster, said there was something inside that made her feel like this was her team's time.
"Once it was done, it was crazy," she said. "It was unreal because I'd never done anything this big in my entire life. ... In the final couple of seconds, I was like, "Is this real?' Tears just came to my eyes. It was definitely the most exciting thing that's ever happened."
The elation that exuded from both teams Tuesday suggested she wasn't alone in that feeling.
The double celebration was full of emotional, heartfelt moments. Perhaps the most memorable came when Carver, while away from the Kanesville crowd, was asked if sharing the championship spotlight with Silvey made the accomplishment any more significant.
"One hundred percent," he said, smiling initially before beginning to choke up. After a long moment, Carver collected himself enough to briefly mutter the finish of his thought. "It's cool."