VAN HORNE — When a soccer match needs penalty kicks to decide the outcome, the Solon boys turn to Luke McInnis.
In three matches this season, the senior — despite not playing in goal competitively in at least four years — has moved from his customary midfielder position to guard the net for a critical shootout.
All three McInnis appearances have resulted in Solon victories.
“It’s not too bad,” McInnis said after the Class 1A third-ranked Spartans outlasted No. 10 Benton Community, 1-0 on penalty kicks, in a Wamac Conference match on Monday at Benton Community High School. “I grew up playing goalkeeper in club. I am able to transition pretty well, get into the mindset I need to be in as a goalkeeper and we were able to get what we needed done. We had good penalty kickers to finish it out and we got the result.”
Previously, McInnis helped the Spartans (9-3, 3-3 Wamac) seal wins over Ottumwa and 2A No. 16 DeWitt Central on penalty kicks. On Monday, Benton got its first two attempts by McInnis but was denied in each of its final three chances, including a diving save that clinched the penalty-kick portion for Solon, 3-2.
“I just decided to go to that right side,” McInnis said. “I guessed that he was going that way and I was able to get a foot on to it and knock it off the post.”
Solon graduated an all-state goalkeeper in Eric Weetman after last season and has received good production from a pair of first-year goalkeepers in seniors Ian Johnson and Joseph Peters. Johnson held Benton scoreless through 80 minutes of regulation, plus two 10-minute overtime periods.
“We’ve got two guys, two seniors, who went out of their comfort zone and volunteered,” Solon Coach Jeremy McMurrin said. “They work hard and they’re learning.”
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Benton (2-4, 2-2) was led by freshman Koley Kelly, who recorded 21 saves in his first start at goalkeeper.
Junior midfielders Rodney Wittich and Bennett Meier, plus senior forward Jorel Justus, all converted penalty-kick chances for Solon, which won its third match in a row.
“The result is the most important thing,” said senior captain Luke Yetley, a first team all-state selection last season. “As long as we keep winning, spirits are high and everything is good.”
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