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Five Star Performers: Grand Island soccer team
Although the Grand Island Islanders hooked up in a thrilling match with the Kearney Bearcats last week, their most exciting games are probably yet to come.
As they look toward getting back to the state tournament next month, members of the undefeated Islander soccer squad are this week's News 5 Five Star Performers sponsored by Aurora Cooperative.
May of 2011: Morrison Stadium in Omaha, the Grand Island Islanders defeated the Lincoln East Spartans to advance to the state championship final. The Islander bench explodes. The coach is at a loss for words.
"Just amazing. I mean I don't know how to literally put my feelings into words right now, guys," said Islander Coach Jeremy Jensen.
Several days later and to the championship game with Creighton Prep and as happy as the Islanders were to win the semi-final, the overtime loss for the title was as disappointing. So close and the Islanders know what they're shooting for now.
"In fact, in our locker room we have got pictures up all over the Creighton Prep kids celebrating and holding the state championship trophies up so it's a constant reminder to them once the game got over that our kids set a goal to get back there again, be undefeated and try to get it done this time," said Jensen.
Fast forward to this season, once again Creighton Prep and Grand Island are still ranked #1 and #2 in the state and it is that state championship atmosphere the Islanders want to taste again.
"Feel like you're also professional 'cause all of the people like coming to watch you guys play, cheering for you guys, and I just like the atmosphere, that's what I like mostly about it," said Kevin Garcia.
Soccer here in the Cornhusker state is getting some huge respect. The Islanders are ranked 8th nationally by the Adidas high school soccer ratings. The Junior Jays of Creighton Prep are second in the nation. Could the teams be on a collision course for a title rematch? If so the Islanders are determined to make it a different result.
"This year, we should have a better chance, I think we can win it this year," said Ignacio Salinas-Castillo.
We sure haven't had to wait for the state tournament for soccer excitement. Just last week, the Islanders and Kearney Bearcats hooked up in a showdown of unbeatens. Despite playing shorthanded with a man out with a penalty, the Islanders came from behind with a dramatic 4-3 win. The score aside, Jeremy Jensen feels both teams were winners for soccer here in the Tri-Cities.
"It's really fun to see the success Grand Island has had the past couple of years. Kearney has had success longer than we have, Columbus has had a good team in the past. Hastings plays well so that way we can prove there's quality soccer west of Lincoln and it's fun," Jensen said.
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