116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
VINTON — You only need to look at the team’s record to see that a successful boys’ soccer program has been built at Vinton-Shellsburg High School.
The Vikings were 10-71-3 their first six years including a pair of winless seasons from 2012 to 2017.
That feels like a long, long time ago now.
Propelled by a senior class that was honored before Monday night’s 5-0 win over Williamsburg, Vinton-Shellsburg is 8-0 this season with a 61-5 goal differential and ranked No. 3 in Class 2A.
“It’s exceeded my expectations with how well it’s gone,” said Kyle McAbee who played on the inaugural 2012 team — he was the only one who had played the sport before — and took over as head coach in 2016.
“We struggled to even field a team,” McAbee said of his initial coaching experience. “We had workouts where we had three guys show up. Now, we had 30-something guys show up to a workout this summer. It’s just been cool to look back and see how far we’ve come. It’s been quite a ride.”
The way this team was built was evident in Senior Night introductions. “Thirteen years playing soccer.” “Four years playing soccer.” “First year playing soccer.” There are stars on the team who have played since they could sign up as kids and athletes who just signed up to be part of this.
“Our grade came up, we had more people interested. We were pulling people into the sport,” said one of those 13th-year players, senior David Lapan-Islas.
“Sophomore year (when the Vikings finished 12-6) is when it was like, we can really do something. I knew the next two years we were gonna have most of our team anyway so just keep building. This is where I expected to be at this point.”
Lapan-Islas added two more goals to his team-leading tally Monday and is among the state leaders with 17. CJ Rickels matched him with a brace against the Raiders (3-5) to up his season total to 15. Seniors Ryan Moore (eight goals) and Damon Swenson (seven) have played crucial roles in the attack as well. Swenson helps anchor the midfield with juniors Kale Schulte and Gunnar Moen. Ethan Rollinger, a captain along with Lapan-Islas and Swenson, is an imposing defender anchoring the back line.
Prominent on the sideline and the official team shirts is the No. 11 of Mike Betterton, who was on the soccer and wrestling teams with these seniors. He died in 2019, just a few months before the pandemic canceled a promising 2020 season.
The team honored him with a special night on April 15 and still displays his jersey next to the bench during games.
“He was always the guy who pumped us up, got us motivated,” Lapan-Islas said. “He’d stand up for us in a game. I think we’re all trying to lead by his example.”