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PV's offense comes to life in second half to clinch MAC title

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Despite playing a strong first half, Pleasant Valley High School's boys soccer team had nothing to show for its efforts.

But instead of panicking and changing up formations, the Class 3A No. 4 Spartans kept calm, stuck to the game plan, and were finally rewarded, scoring five goals in a 12-minute span to beat No. 11 Muscatine 5-0 and clinch the Mississippi Athletic Conference title outright in a winner-take-all showdown.

"In the first half, we did everything right, the only thing we didn't do was put it in between the two posts," said Jeffery Rinker, who scored two goals in the match. "So once we focused on that and got the first one, we were like, 'Oh, this is what we need to do.'"

It's the second straight year PV (14-1, 9-0 MAC) has won the conference title, and third in the last four, with COVID-19 nixing the 2020 season.

"Winning the MAC is always important," PV coach Wayne Ward said. "We're playing against peers and people we play with at club and it's important to the boys that they are seen as No. 1 in the town. Important to win the MAC, first step, but as somebody said in the (postgame) circle with the boys, we're not finished yet."

PV was in control right from the outset and had a great chance at an early lead just six minutes into the game when a foul in the box set up a penalty kick.

Muscatine (13-4, 8-1 MAC) keeper Logan Wolf got a foot on a shot from Rhys Ward to deny PV the early goal.

Wolf was strong throughout the game, making nine saves, including a diving stop to deny a shot from Bryce Rubel that appeared destined for the upper corner in the 30th minute.

"He played a helluva game and that's the saddest part about tonight is that we wasted his effort," Muscatine head coach Jose Varela said. "He's been like that the whole season, he's just an outstanding kid and as far as I'm concerned, I'll take him over any goalie in the conference."

Finally, in the 60th minute, PV broke through on a give-and-go play between Rinker and Justin Ancelet, who took a pass from Rinker and gave it right back to his teammate for the game's first goal.

"The chemistry we have and all the teamwork that we were able to build off, it's just give-and-go," Rinker said. "We know where we're going to be, we know the passes we want, we know what foot we want it and putting it into the games and seeing the outcome that we want is very beneficial." 

Ancelet added a goal less than two minutes later, scoring on a penalty kick, which opened the floodgates. Rinker added his second goal in the 67th minute, then Owen Gannaway and Alex Hunter scored in the 71st and 72nd minutes, respectively.

"After I scored that PK, we were obviously getting the student section hyped and everything," Ancelet said. "We were on fire and just kept going with our attacking speed up top. ... At the beginning of the season, we were talking about our goals and winning the MAC was a big one and this obviously has a big impact on our postseason future and we hope to make another run at a state championship."

Grouped in the same substate, there's a chance these two teams could play again in a game to go to state on May 25. If that does happen, the Muskies hope this loss doesn't have too much of a psychological effect moving forward, now preparing to face the winner of Bettendorf and Davenport West in a substate semifinal next Monday.

"Hopefully we'll get a chance to redeem ourselves because we're a better team than we showed in the second half," Varela said. "It's one of those things where we have to focus on the next opponent and not worry about PV. ... Hopefully that will help us get our confidence back."


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