It had been three years since the Pleasant Valley boys soccer team won a Mississippi Athletic Conference championship but there was little celebration when the Spartans accomplished that feat Thursday night.
A 1-0 win over North Scott at Spartan Stadium clinched a share of the title with Bettendorf but wasn't a performance the Spartans were particularly proud of.
"Right now, a lot of us are really disappointed with the way we performed tonight, but anytime you're a MAC champ, it's really nice and it's an honor to be a co-MAC champion this year," senior Anthony Pena said. "We're proud of that, but that was just a stepping stone along the way for us for bigger things this season."
A state berth is what the Spartans have their eye on this year, something no Pleasant Valley team has accomplished before them. So after the horn sounded, a lengthy discussion was held afterwards, the team now turning its focus to the postseason.
"It's nice to win the MAC; to be honest, it wasn't one of our goals," Pleasant Valley head coach Wayne Ward said. "Our goal is to take this team to state, and we need to find, we're technically a good team, tactically we've got it right, we've just got to find that killer instinct."
The Spartans looked like they'd run away with the game early after Pena scored less than two minutes in. Isaac Ward fired a shot that ricocheted off the Lancer keeper up into the air, and Pena headed it into the net for the goal.
Pleasant Valley (11-3, 8-1) dominated the first half and had a few other quality looks but couldn't add to the lead. It's something that's bugged the Spartans all season, their three losses coming by one goal.
"You just have to have that mentality that you're going to have to get after it and you're going to have to want it more than the other team," Pena said. "We've really slacked the whole year, we haven't been able to do that. We've got to be able to turn that switch on and get in our game face."
As the game went on, North Scott started to mount an attack but only mustered three shots on goal and just one quality look as PV held on for the win.
The Spartans dug themselves a hole early in the season with a 3-2 loss to Davenport Central but rallied to win their last six conference games, including snapping Bettendorf's 23-match conference unbeaten streak in the process.
"It motivated us, made us hungry, and we realized the games in the MAC won't just be given to us," senior defender Andre James said. "We needed to want it, and I think that carried through the season and made us hungrier."
The Spartans could potentially face the Blue Devils again as they host the winner of Monday's substate opener between Central and Davenport North.
North Scott, meanwhile has lost six straight, though five of those losses have come by a lone goal, the last four coming to ranked teams. With the postseason starting Monday against Linn-Mar, the Lancers (6-11, 3-6) hope they can find the energy that carried them in the second half and apply it to the whole game against the Lions.
"The sleepiness, the lack of urgency in the first half was tough," North Scott Troy Bendickson said. "We've had a brutal schedule at the end here, but that can only make us stronger. ... Records are meaningless at this point. A lot of one-goal losses against really good teams, and we're going to see a really good team, but we're prepared for that. Anything can happen, and we're excited."