By Ryan Murken
Your Prep Sports
SOLON –Ben Carr summed up the soccer postseason succinctly last week.
“If you don’t put the ball in the net this time of year you go home,” the Solon senior captain said flatly.
Carr is correct, advancing in the postseason requires scoring goals but as Solon demonstrated on Wednesday keeping opposing teams off the scoreboard can be equally effective.
Class 1A fourth-ranked Solon posted its fourth straight shutout on Wednesday, a 3-0 blanking of Fort Madison Holy Trinity (8-9) in the Substate 5 semifinals at Spartan Stadium.
“If you keep putting up zeroes you are giving yourself a chance,” Solon coach Jeremy McMurrin said. “Defense is just all about focus and if you can stay focused back there you can have success.”
Driven by its stingy defense the Spartans continued their success on Wednesday.
Carr, Luke Yetley and Isaac Vang all had goals as Solon (14-5) advanced to the Substate 5 title game.
Solon will put its four-match shutout streak on the line when it hosts Columbus (11-5) at Noon on Saturday for a trip to the Class 1A state tournament.
“Before today we hadn’t been thinking about it we were just focused on today but now we want it so bad,” Solon junior Nick Radcliffe said. “We are going to have to work these next two days and we are going to have to show up on Saturday because it’s not going to be a pushover game.”
Solon scored more than two goals for just the second time in eight matches on Wednesday but it was once again all about the Solon defense.
The shutout was the 14th of the season for Solon which hasn’t allowed a goal since a 2-1 loss at Maquoketa on May 2.
“14 is a ton of shutouts,” McMurrin said. “You have to be on the same page, you have to be disciplined and you have to have good goal keeper play too and Eric (Weetman) has done a phenomenal job of us this year. All of those things go into it to get those results.”
Led by its backline captained by Radcliffe the Solon defense has gotten better as the season has gone on.
The Spartans have eight shutouts in their past 10 matches and have allowed only two goals during that stretch.
“Nick leads in the back, he’s a captain and he’s solid back there,” Carr said. “We have had leaders step up back there and get us all on the same page.”
The stingy defense has become a trademark of the Spartans this season, a calling card for a team without an offensive superstar.
“A lot of it is we play rather safe than sorry and we are really good at playing with each other,” Radcliffe said. “We have a bunch of athletes back there and we outwork people.”
Yetley gave Solon a lead it would never give up with his team-leading 15th goal of the season in the first half.
Carr put the match away when he headed in a Cole Paisley pass to put Regina up 2-0 in the second half.
“We’ve been working on those set kicks a lot and it wasn’t a set kick but Cole floated it over the top and I just put a head on it,” Carr said. “It’s hard to read because there is a lot of spin on the ball but I barely hit it with my head and it was able to go in.”
Vang capped the scoring with a goal in the 78th minute.
Solon can now turn its attention to reaching the state tournament for the first time since 2012.
“It’s going to take everything we’ve got on Saturday,” Radcliffe said. “One mistake on either side could be the game so we need to give it everything and be as clean as we can.”