MARION — At high noon on a hot, humid Saturday, the Marion boys’ soccer team put its perfect record on the line to secure a trip to the state tournament.
The Indians cut through the heat and the Mount Pleasant defense to capture their second consecutive state tournament berth with a 4-0 win.
“Last year, getting to the state tournament was kind of a surprise for us,” senior Alex Whalen said. “This year we worked hard for it and want to make a deep run at the state tournament.”
The Indians sport a perfect 15-0 record and have allowed only eight goals all year, which is third-best in Class 2A. One of those goals was in a 3-1 win over Mount Pleasant earlier this season. The Indians were not inclined to let anything past them with a trip back to state on the line.
“Our game plan was just to get anything that looked sketchy out of the zone,” Whalen said. “Our defense has been strong all year.
“As the captain, I know I can trust anyone on that back line.”
Both teams sent the majority of the defenders in the middle of the field. With time and space at a premium, frustrations can boil over. Marion Coach Marco Fichtner said too much passing and not enough shooting can create offensive struggles.
“Everybody who’s on the ball wants to do the next special thing,” Fichtner said. “I tell them that we have 11 guys that can do special things, but what we need are more guys that can do the simple things.”
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The Indians finally broke through late in the first half. Josiah Smith’s free kick found its way to the foot of Jaffer Murphy and quickly to the back of the net to give Marion a 1-0 lead.
“I feel like we capitalized on every opportunity that we were given,” said Smith.
Smith and Murphy kept it going in the second half. At the 48th minute, Smith sent a crossing pass to Murphy, who put it in the net to give the Indians a 2-0 edge.
“The chemistry we all have together is really great,” said Murphy, who scored his third goal in the 73rd minute. “Josiah and I know how each other plays and we work well together.”
Samuel Murphy tacked on another goal in the 76th minute to seal the state tournament berth for the Indians. Marion will look to keep its record perfect when the state tournament kicks off Thursday at Cownie Soccer Park in Des Moines.
“We just need to play Marion soccer like we have all year,” Whalen said. “There are going to be some nerves, but if we stick to our game, we’ll know what we need to do.”