Less than 24 hours after beating Platteville/Lancaster, the McFarland High School boys soccer team still had the task of beating Mount Horeb.
That wasn’t going to be easy, as the Spartans had not beaten the Vikings since the WIAA Division 3 sectional final in 2013. The win put McFarland in the state tournament in Milwaukee for the first time in program history.
On Nov. 2, the host Spartans were ready for the Vikings and after a slow start, played amazing soccer.
Led by Ethan Nichols’ two goals, McFarland sent Mount Horeb home for the season with a 3-1 victory. The Spartans take on Rice Lake 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the Uihlein Soccer Park. A victory would send McFarland to the state championship game for second straight year.
Nichols put McFarland on the scoreboard first in the 17th minute as he tallied off an assist from sophomore Zach Nichols following a corner kick.
The Spartans continued to lead 1-0 at halftime, but head coach Brett Ogorzalek said he wasn’t happy with his team’s play.
“It was fortunate we were winning at that point,” Ogorzalek said. “There were simple things we weren’t doing like winning 50/50 balls. If you are not fighting for the loose balls in soccer, you are not going to have much success. I also felt our guys were not staying with their marks on defense. We were just letting the Mount Horeb players roam around free.”
Things improved in the second half as the Spartans executed their game plan better and kept the Vikings from scoring until late in the game.
One minute into the second half, Vince Seils gave his team a two-goal advantage with Ian Loss earning the assist following another corner kick.
McFarland’s third goal was highlight-reel material as Ethan Nichols gained possession of the ball deep in Mount Horeb’s offensive end and ran almost the entire length of the field to put his second shot into the net in the 74th minute.
“He took the ball from one end of the field and dribbled down to the other end,” Ogorzalek said. “It was probably an 80- or 90-yard run. He just took matters into his own hands.”
Five minutes later, Mount Horeb cut the lead to 3-1 on Nathan Steihl’s goal, but goaltender Matt Schutt, who made nine saves, remained steady in the net and kept the Vikings from making a comeback.
McFarland outshot Mount Horeb 19-16 as Vikings goaltender Seth Aiken stopped 11 shots.
Ogorzalek said making a second straight appearance in the state tournament is a huge accomplishment for the players, the school, the program and the community.
“We are sending a message that we think we belong in that conversation with the top teams in the state,” Ogorzalek said.
In 2018, McFarland beat Plymouth in the state semifinal match but lost in the title game to Milwaukee Pius. Many of the current McFarland players participated in last season’s state run, and Ogorzalek said that experience should be helpful. However, all four No. 1 sectional seeds in Division 3 advanced to state this season, and the competition will not be easy.
“There weren’t really any dark horses that snuck into the tournament, so we know the teams are going to be very difficult,” Ogorzalek said. “I think it will be a little easier for us having gone last year. The guys know what to expect a little bit. There isn’t so much shock and awe. I’m hoping the second time around, it will be a little easier for the guys to enjoy that big game atmosphere while taking care of business.”