There was an emotional celebration when the Somerset boys soccer team locked up its first Middle Border Conference championship with its 6-0 win at Osceola last Thursday.
To know why this title meant so much for the Spartans, you have to look at the team’s history. Two years ago, the Spartans finished 5-16-1. The year before, the Spartans were outscored 57-8 for the season. Last year, the Spartans climbed to respectability under new coach Bill Roll, finishing third in the conference behind Amery and New Richmond.
This year, the Spartans made the final step to the championship, finishing with a 14-1-1 MBC record. They suffered a loss to Amery and a tie against New Richmond in the first half of the conference schedule, but they went unbeaten through the second half of the MBC season.
“There were a few tears shed,” Roll said of the celebration Thursday. “The older guys realized how far our program has come. It’s been a pretty big turnaround and it’s a great group of guys.”
Getting to play on Osceola’s artificial turf under the lights added to the luster of the game. The Spartans wasted no time showing how badly they wanted the win. Osceola had the opening possession of the game, but that didn’t stop the Spartans from scoring 17 seconds into the game. Ryan Vang stole the ball and got it forward to Jon Bucklew. Bucklew slotted a pass to Gavin Meader, who registered the quick goal.
The Spartans moved ahead 2-0 in the 11th minute. Thomas Bauer delivered a corner kick to the front of the goal, where Logan Wiederin quickly deposited the ball in the goal.
That was Somerset’s last goal of the half, but not for a lack of trying. The Spartans put 16 shots on goal in the first half.
Roll reminded the players about taking higher quality shots at halftime and the Spartans responded with two goals in the first 4:28 of the second half. Meader scored both goals, with Bucklew assisting on both of them.
Meader completed his hat trick in the 60th minute and Bucklew added the final goal in the 67th minute of the game.
Bucklew and Meader were the top scoring tandem in the state during the regular season. Bucklew led the state in points (101), goals (38) and assists (25) during the regular season. Meader tied for third in the state in total points (81) and fourth in goals (35). Roll said the chemistry between the two players makes them even more difficult for defenses to stop.
Bucklew led the state in goals and total points last year, but his assist total has increased significantly this season.
“It was one of his goals, to up his assist total this year. He’s been putting more of a priority on that,” Roll said.
Before beating Osceola, the Spartans went to Spooner last Tuesday and scored a 10-0 win over the Rails in 60 minutes. This game was decided in a matter of minutes. Somerset scored four times in the first 7:40 of the game. Bucklew scored five goals and Meader scored twice. Vang, Rhys Linke and Ethan Lammers also scored goals.
Winning the conference title is just one of the Spartans’ goals for the season. They recognize the opportunity they have and they plan to do all they can with it.
“The ultimate goal is to qualify for the state tournament,” Roll said.
The Spartans are seeded second in the eight-team Division 2 regional bracket and they were scheduled to open tournament play on Tuesday against Osceola. The winner of Tuesday’s game will play again on Thursday, facing the winner of Tuesday’s game between Rice Lake and Arcadia. The winner of Thursday’s game will advance to the sectional semifinals, which will be played on Thursday, Oct. 24.