by Calli Newberry
The Imlay City boys soccer team won the BWAC title for the fifth year in a row Monday night on the road against Croswell-Lexington. The Spartans walked away with a 5-0 victory, maintaining their perfect 12-0 conference record. They currently stand 18-3-2.
“It’s a great feeling. These kids have been working really hard throughout their lifetime,” head coach Luis Hernandez said. “A lot of these guys have been playing since they were really small, so they’ve been consistently playing soccer, not only during the season but in the off-season, and it pays off. These are the kind of results they’re looking for.”
Junior forward Sergio Galiana sparked the Spartans’ offense with the first goal with 24 minutes remaining in the first half, followed by another goal from fellow junior defender Luis Barragan who scored with 15 minutes to go, assisted by sophomore forward Dilan Garcia.
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The Spartans held a 2-0 lead at the half and managed to extend their lead with three more goals while maintaining a strong defensive front to hold the Pioneers scoreless. Sophomore Quintin Ramirez guarded the goal for most of the night with two saves, while freshman Carter Couzens had one.
In the second half, junior forward Giovani Torres scored within the first 10 minutes. Junior midfielder Jose Salcedo followed up with the fourth goal, assisted by junior midfielder Juan Zepeda, and the fifth and final was scored by senior forward Josh Hayes, assisted by freshman midfielder Greyson Shadbolt.
Hernandez said his team will be aiming to get back to the Regional Final just like last year, and even beyond. In recent history, the team has won four (now five) BWAC titles, four District titles, and has had one other Regional Final appearance in 2014.
“They take it one step at a time. The first goal was getting the BWAC and now they’re getting ready for Districts,” Hernandez said. “It took me a while to get them to understand that every year is different. Just because we won Districts last year doesn’t mean we’ll do it again just by showing up. We’ve got to fight for it.”
That fight will begin for the Spartans on Monday night against the winner of the Almont-Yale matchup that’s set to take place this afternoon.
Despite how the District tournament goes, Imlay City is slated to play against Williamston (9-6-2) in the semifinal round of the Division III Regional tournament on Tuesday, Oct. 26. The winner of that game will play Lansing Catholic (8-3-1) on Thursday, Oct. 28 in the Regional Final.
“We’ve played Williamston, but it was just a scrimmage so we didn’t record stats or anything like that,” Hernandez said. “We won 2-0, but it’s one thing to scrimmage, it’s another thing to play a Regional game.”
The Spartans will rely on their experience, both in-season and out, to carry them through the playoffs. With many returning players who were on last year’s Regional Final team, they know what to expect and how to handle a bigger soccer stage.
“They already know the level they’re expected to bring and what it’s going to look like and the pace of the game, the difficulty of it,” Hernandez said. “They already know what it’s going to look like ahead of time.”