TREYNOR – Veronica Svajgl stopped playing soccer in second or third grade.
Last year as a sophomore, her St. Albert classmates urged her to return.
“My friends made me play,’’ she said. “I’m glad I did.’’
So are her teammates. Svajgl stopped Alyssa Kellar’s penalty kick in the 52nd minute, then made two more leaping deflections down the stretch to make Teagan Blackburn’s goal in the 16th minute stand for No. 10 St. Albert’s 1-0 victory over No. 5 Treynor Monday in a Class 1-A regional final at the Treynor athletic complex.
“Honestly, she was petrified because she had a college coach here watching her,’’ St. Albert coach Chris Hughes said of Svajgl (pronounced SVAY-gull). “I have a gut feeling he might have liked what he saw. She’s instinctual.’’
The Saintes (14-7) advanced to their ninth state tournament, including their seventh in the last 11 years. They’ll play at 11 a.m. Thursday at Cownie Soccer Park in Des Moines against top-rated, top-seeded Davenport Assumption (17-1). The Knights have won three straight state titles and seven in the last eight years.
Seeking its first state appearance in its sixth year of the program, Treynor closed at 12-3, losing in the regional final for a second straight season.
The Cardinals had more quality scoring opportunities than their counterpart, but nothing to show for it. One reporter had the Cards with a 9-4 shots-on-goal edge.
“It’s just a heartbreaker,’’ Treynor coach Stephanie Lajko said. “It’s a fickle game. Unfortunately, sometimes the score doesn’t really show the effort and the amount of possession that a team has. No taking away from St. Albert. They played a heck of a game. They’ve got a physical team. A really smart coach. And I love playing them. I wish we could play them every year. They only make us better.
“I can’t take anything away from their win, because they played a heck of a game, but so did my girls.’’
Treynor controlled the early portion of the game, but in the 16th minute Blackburn, a senior who will play at Northwest Missouri State, raced down the left side and maneuvered around the final defender, leaving only sophomore keeper Callie Copperstone.
Blackburn said she was thinking “to keep your head up and watch the corners, because they tend to go out on you. So you’ve got to watch that corner, and I just toed it in.’’
It was Blackburn’s only real scoring opportunity of the match, but she seized it.
“She hasn’t scored in about four games,’’ Hughes said. “She had one true shot, and she just knocked it in.’’
The speedy Kellar, a sophomore who has committed to Iowa, made an outstanding individual run in the 52nd minute and was fouled in the box to earn a penalty kick. Svajgl made the save not too far from her original spot.
“I try to just watch it come off their foot, and usually it tells me where it’s going,’’ she said.
Twice in the second half, Kellar launched quality shots on goal, only to be denied by a leaping Svajgl.
“Boy, Roni was a load back there,’’ Hughes said.
The St. Albert coach said his team was rewarded for its willingness to play anyone anywhere.
“We have played 16 road games this year,’’ he said. “We’ve practiced six different places. We’ve played 11 teams that are playing tonight to go to state. That’s what we said, no matter what they have, it doesn’t matter because we’ve seen it.
“Now in saying that, they’re super young. There’s no reason they don’t get to state the next two years.’’
Treynor started only one senior, Iowa Western recruit Alexis Kellar, Alyssa’s older sister.
“We’re a growing program and a team,’’ Lajko said. “They’re going to stick together and they’re going to do everything in their power to come back stronger next year.’’
The Saintes have been eliminated by Treynor in volleyball and basketball several times in recent years. They said that added meaning to Monday’s victory.
“We were like, ‘They’ve beat us in basketball, volleyball. We’re not going to let that happen in soccer,’’’ Blackburn said.
St. Albert (14-7) 1 0 – 1
Treynor (12-3) 0 0 – 0
Goal: SA, Teagan Blackburn.