Intramural soccer: Masticators cream the Cream Team, 3-1


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It has been said that the best offense is a strong defense.

That was true in Monday night's intramural soccer match between the Masticators and the Cream Team. Defense dominated the game until the last six minutes, when the Masticators scored two goals for the win, 3-1.

Goalie play defined most of the first half. The Masticators tried to begin with an aggressive tempo, but its scoring attempts fell apart thanks to Cream Team goalkeeper Ian Spangenberg. He contributed three difficult saves in the game's opening minutes.

Spangenberg couldn't stop them all, though. All he could do was throw an arm toward the incoming ball when Masticators captain Alex Whitesell sent it flying into the right corner of the goal to give his team some breathing room.

The goal seemed to spark the Cream Team, which attempted to pick up the pace on offense. The squad tried hard to execute by bringing the ball closer to the goal and attempting shorter shots, but stiff defense kept the game at 1-0 — a score that remained until just seven minutes were left in the match.

"We weren't putting [the shots] in," said Spangenberg, who could be heard directing his team from his goal. "Lots of our shots didn't go, and our defensive breakdowns resulted in goals."

It seemed Whitesell's goal would be the only one of the night, because most of the second half took place at midfield. Each team drove down the field, only to have the ball stolen.

But the Masticators seemed to be in control of the game offensively. Many members of the team had one man to beat and an open goal in front of them. Execution was a problem, though, and many of the shots flew over the goal or missed it completely.

"A lot of guys haven't played [soccer] before," Whitesell said.

Despite the inexperience, the Masticators were able to find the goal when it mattered. They widened their lead to 2-0 near the second half's seven-minute mark.

The Cream Team rallied a minute later with a goal of its own. The Masticators' players picked up their game defensively as an aggressive Cream Team offense continued to take shots on goal — even bringing Spangenberg out from the other end of the field as an attempt to tie the game.

The Cream Team couldn't prevail, though. With seconds left, the Masticators drew Spangenberg away from the goal and sent the ball over his head to ice the 3-1 win.

"A game like this shows the level of competition intramurals has," Cream Team captain Chris Perez said. "It comes down to simple things: making good touches. We got more aggressive late, but we couldn't execute."

Assisting the Masticators was Kevin Johnston, whose encouragement and assistance both from the sideline and the field played a large role. Johnston, who has 20 years of soccer coaching experience, was picked up by the team in free agency; he's a new member of the UI faculty and serves as the associate director of the Center for Teaching.

"As the old guy, I help the young guys see the field," the 51-year-old said. "Communication is extremely important."

Whitesell said Johnston's contributions were key for the win.

"What he doesn't have in age, he makes up in wisdom," Whitesell said and laughed.

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