(Photo by Michael Fischer)
The Tigers wasted no time in jumping out in front of Heelan at Spencer Soccerplex for the 2A Substate semifinal match. Nigel Nielsen put one home in the fifth minute to gain an early advantage and settle Spencer into the game.
"The early goal settles the nerves a bit," Spencer coach Ben MacRae said. "We played outstanding tonight. It's the performance of the year so far. We're playing some our best soccer right now, and we're also practicing very well, which is transferring over to the games. Our movements and passing are sharp and tonight our finishing was excellent."
Matthew Behrens and Carter Gerdeman each added a goal in the first 20 minutes of the match as Spencer moved to the halftime break with a 3-0 lead. Even more of the same ensued in the second half with Zach Vanderah scoring two goals within the first 10 minutes after the break. Spencer was firing on all cylinders, chipping goals up and over the goalie, and placing them just outside of the keeper's reach for corner shots.
Cole Loehr added two second-half goals, and Gerdeman added his second of the game midway through the second half as Spencer continued the offensive barrage.
The Tigers, who are fourth-ranked in 2A this week, improved their season record to 15-2-1 and are on a current 8-game winning streak. The next match will be against Spirit Lake Park-Okoboji for the right to go to state. SLP-O defeated Storm Lake Wednesday night in a shootout to advance.
SLP-O is the only team on Spencer's schedule the Tigers haven't beat. The two rivals tied in the year's first match, 3-3, due to darkness in Spirit Lake on April 2, and the Indians won in Spencer, 3-2, April 26. Spirit Lake also eliminated Spencer from Substate play last year in the Substate final and went on to a fourth-place finish at state.
"We're looking forward to the match. There's a little bit of revenge we'd like to get but we'll have to perform on the day," MacRae said.
The Substate final between Spencer and Spirit Lake Park-Okoboji will be held at the Spencer Soccerplex at noon on Saturday, May 26 with the winner advancing to the state tournament beginning May 31 in Des Moines.
FIRST HALF GOALS: Nigel Nielsen (5th minute), Matthew Behrens (12th minute), Carter Gerdeman (16th minute).
SECOND HALF GOALS: Zach Vanderah (45th minute), Zach Vanderah (50th minute), Cole Loehr (54th minute), Carter Gerdeman (62nd minute), Cole Loehr (78th minute)