The Superior High School boys soccer team may be young and a bit inexperienced, but there shouldn't be many opponents in better condition than the Spartans this season.
“We’ve implemented something new this year,” SHS coach Otto Berti said. “We did two weeks of conditioning before the season and that’s seemed to help out a lot. The guys don’t seem as tired early on as in previous years. I remember some openers where a lot of the guys were sucking wind.”
The extra conditioning seems to be working so far as the Spartans opened the season with a 4-0 win over the Menomonie Mustangs Tuesday, Aug. 27, at the NBC Spartan Sports Complex.
The Spartans dominated most of the game with senior keeper Nate Olson picking up the shutout.
Along with Olson, Berti will also be relying on the senior leadership of midfielder Alex Hanson and defenders Noah Benson and Isaac Moder. Those three combined on two goals and an assist in Tuesday’s win.
“We sure do have some good seniors,” Berti said. “Noah and Alex are our captains and will surely be missed when the graduate, but so will Nate and defender Isaac Moder. They all mean so much to this team.”
Hanson was an all-conference honorable mention selection last season.
Also expected to help out on offense will be sophomores Jakob Kidd and Viet Nguyen.
Kidd scored twice on Tuesday and Viet Nguyen assisted on Hanson’s goal.
“Jakob knows where to be and anticipates where the ball is going to end up,” Berti said. “And he loves to shoot, the more he shoots the more he’s going to score this year.”
Kidd scored the only goal Superior ended up needing seven minutes into the game.
After taking a pass from Kaden Olson, Kidd stepped around the Mustang keeper and tapped the ball in an open goal with his left foot.
Benson gave Superior a 2-0 lead when he found himself alone near the 25-yard line and blasted the ball past the outstretched arms of Menomonie keeper Jonny Fenton.
A couple of minutes later the game was forced into a 30-minute delay because of lightning.
The Spartans didn’t let up off the gas after the break as Hanson scored from Nguyen and Kidd’s second goal was assisted by Moder.
Berti and the Spartans also have their sights set on winning their first Lake Superior Conference title since 2001.
The Spartans, who finished in third place in the LSC last year with a record of 4-3, got off to a 6-0 start before suffering shutouts at the hands of Duluth Denfeld, Duluth Marshall and Cloquet-Esko-Carlton.
Superior righted the ship with a 2-2 tie at Eau Claire North, then rattled off four straight wins and eventually finishing the season at 11-5-2 overall.
The season ended with a 5-0 loss to Hudson in the opening round of the WIAA playoffs.
The main players lost from last year’s squad include Maverick Peterson, who is attending the Air Force Academy; Brandon Conklin, currently playing for the UW-Superior men; and Cal Berti, a chemical engineering student at the University of Minnesota.
Peterson was first-team all-LSC last season, while Conklin and Berti were second-team in 2017 and 2018.
“We have a lot of young guys on the team this year, but we have the potential to do some good things,” said Berti, whose overall coaching record is 33-13 in seven years. “A strong defense will complement a strong midfield. Our expectations are always to win the conference. We’re off to a good start so far, we’ll see how it rolls on.”
SPARTAN SPIN: Berti’s assistant coaches are Jake Swanson and Harry Simpson. … Superior’s managers are Emma Fornengo, Brooklyn Jones, Olivia McGovern-Loesche, Olivia Olson and Bailey Revering.