Jose Varela knew Thursday night would be a tall task for his Muscatine soccer team. That’s why the Muskie soccer coach didn’t want to measure his team’s success based on the scoreboard.
“I told them today I was going to measure them on their output, focus and effort,” Varela said. “We did pretty well.”
Even so, Pleasant Valley proved itself as the best team in the Mississippi Athletic Conference as it controlled the match from start to finish and dispatched Muscatine 5-0.
“We made some mistakes and a good team will capitalize on that and they did,” Varela said. “There were some things we obviously could have done better but overall I was pretty happy with their effort.
“They’re a better team than we are. That’s just what happens.”
For Class 3A No. 4 Pleasant Valley (14-1, 9-0 MAC), the win secured an outright MAC title a year after splitting it with Bettendorf. The Spartans didn’t allow a single goal in conference play this season.
“It’s nice to win the MAC,” Pleasant Valley coach Wayne Ward said. “Our goal is to try to be on the bus in June and go to Des Moines. That’s what the school, the program and this group of boys are trying to do.”
Varela said goalie Chris Pittman “bailed us out” with a save after a breakdown. Moments later, Hector Martinez had a shot on goal stopped by PV goalie Gabe Johnson and the game remained scoreless. However, PV got on the board in the seventh minute with a free kick goal from well outside the box by senior Isaac Ward. The Spartans scored again in the 21st minute when Jack Roemer found the back of the net.
“We finished well in front of goal,” Ward said. “In that final third we did a nice job.”
Still, the Muskies (5-8, 4-5 MAC) were doing exactly what Varela wanted: They limited the Spartans time on the ball and their options. With the score just 2-0 in favor of PV at halftime, Varela felt Muscatine had a chance to put game pressure on the Spartans in the second half with a goal.
That hope vanished in a hurry, as Jacob Holland converted a goal assisted by Bryce Rubel to put the Spartans up 3-0 in the 42nd minute and end any hope of a Muskie rally.
“When we were at 2-0 I thought ‘If we score one more we’re right back in it,’” Varela said. “We were never able to do that.”
Muscatine didn’t have many chances against the stout PV defense, as it only managed four shots on goal and didn’t have a shot on target after the opening minutes until one from Eddie Treiber in the 45th minute. The Spartans, meanwhile, had nine shots on goal dominated possession for much of the contest.
“Our offensive strategy was to make sure we went wide with the ball and keep it away from tight areas,” Varela said. “We weren’t able to sustain an attack. We had a few here and there but we have a habit of trying to make life harder on ourselves. We go through the middle instead of going out wide.”
Pleasant Valley knocked in two goals in the final five minutes to give Muscatine its most lopsided loss of the season. It doesn’t get much easier for Muscatine, as it plays host to Class 1A No. 2 Iowa City Regina tonight at 5:30 p.m. for senior night.