PV seeks turnaround season: Pleasant Valley lost its first three games last season and never moved above the .500 mark until mid-May. The Spartans finished 10-8 and lost in the substate semifinal round to Iowa City High.
Coach Corbin Stone’s team opened the season with three wins at the North Scott Invitational on Saturday, including a penalty-kick triumph over Class 3A 11th-ranked Ankeny Centennial.
PV struggled finishing opportunities at times last season. It was among the worst times in the MAC in shooting percentage (.122).
Stone, though, is excited about this squad’s versatility and depth. Cole Edwards, Isaac and Owen Ward, Caleb Stivers and Brennan Sarver are among PV’s top returning players.
“If the group can buy-in to a collective team effort and culture change, then we will be very dangerous,” Stone said. “We need to be better defensively on the break, and finishing up front could also be more efficient and effective.”
‘Maintaining focus’: Davenport Assumption was 9-10 and upset in the Class 1A substate semifinal round by Anamosa on its home pitch last season.
The Knights bring back seven players who started in that game, including their top two scorers in Trent Fitzpatrick and Sam Moore along with keeper Lucas Castro.
Assumption also will get a boost with the addition of forward Ben Beutel, who was Davenport North’s second-leading goal scorer last year.
“Our team has a good mix of four-year varsity players and experienced players in the underclasses,” coach Greg Zeller said. “Our biggest enemy last year was a lack of focus.
“We need to maintain focus for 80 minutes.”
Top goal scorers return: Bettendorf’s Nathan Seaberg was the MAC’s top scorer last spring with 19 goals. He has graduated, but four other players with at least a dozen goals return.
Clinton’s Brennen Lemke and Fitzpatrick each tallied 17 goals as sophomores while Davenport Central senior Dario Gonzalez and Moore had 13 and 12 scores, respectively.
Gonzalez, in fact, had four goals in three matches Saturday at the North Scott Invitational.
Can MAC state drought end?: The last four boys state soccer tournaments have not included a team from the Mississippi Athletic Conference.
Other than Bettendorf, nobody from the league has made it to Cownie Soccer Complex in Des Moines this decade. Burlington, Clinton, Davenport North, North Scott and Pleasant Valley have never qualified for the state tournament.
Since Bettendorf’s state title in 2004, the last 12 champions in the large-school classification have hailed from the Mississippi Valley Conference (seven times, six by Iowa City West) and Central Iowa Metropolitan League (five times).
The MVC and CIML comprise the top six spots in the Class 3A preseason rankings.
Area outlook: Central DeWitt begins the season ranked 13th in Class 2A while Columbus/Winfield-Mount Union and West Liberty open the year among the top 10 in 1A.
The Sabers, who made the state tournament in 2014 and 2015, lost to Mount Vernon in the substate final a year ago, 2-1. Central DeWitt will be led by senior Jacob Van Laere (14 goals) and Brady Baxter (6 goals).
Columbus, coming off a 17-2 campaign, brings back seven starters. Among that group is senior forward Erick Cantarero, who tallied a school-record 30 goals last season.
West Liberty returns nine starters from last year’s state-qualifying squad, including the nucleus of its back line in Joe Baker, Joe Kelly and Eliseo Tapia.
April 10 — Muscatine at Bettendorf, 7 p.m.
April 17 — Davenport Central at Pleasant Valley, 7 p.m.
May 2 — Pleasant Valley at Bettendorf, 7:15 p.m.
May 9 — Assumption at Central DeWitt, 7 p.m.
May 27 — Substate finals (all classes)
June 1-3 — State tournament at Des Moines
— Matt Coss