Marshalltown, IA- A golden goal in the 6th minute in overtime propelled the Tigers to the title over Iowa Lakes Community College. Sophomore Rafael Vacas, who was later named Region XI Player of the Year, netted the game winner in extra time giving the Tigers their first Region XI Tournament Title since 2012.
The championship match featured the top two seeds out of regular season, both teams posting a 9-1 record through their ICCAC schedule. Marshalltown earned home field advantage, and the first seed, with their victory over the Lakers on September 29th. The home field advantage would prove to come in clutch down the stretch on a beautiful day in Marshalltown.
The first ten minutes of play saw Iowa Lakes controlling possession and tempo mostly on their attacking half. In the 9th minute, the Lakers offensive pressure would present itself as a cross found an open attacker who beat a diving Joel Serrano. The goal however was called back as the Laker attacker was called offside. The Laker pressure would continue, however, another quality scoring opportunity would be called back due to an offside call. The first shot and save of the game was recorded in the 14th minute as Serrano would deny a Laker scoring attempt.
Fresh legs in the 19th minute gave the Tigers the spark they needed to start making offensive runs. Freshman Gerald Diaz would create a good look on goal, but his shot leashed from 20 yards out would hit the crossbar. Four minutes later, Vacas got another shot off but would miss high. The Tigers would keep the momentum, as they would fire off the next four shots. However, they were unable to connect. The Lakers would close out the half with two shots of their own, but were denied twice by Tiger goalkeeper Serrano. The match would remain scoreless going to the break.
Second half adjustments resulted in a flurry of Tiger shots to start the half, but again the back of the net would prove elusive to the Tiger attackers. The Tigers threatened in the 60th minute with a two on one opportunity in which Vacas found Kazuki Kimura for an open shot that would sail wide right. Just two minutes later, another scoring opportunity presented itself to Marshalltown in the form of a handball called just beyond the Laker 18 yard line. Vacas would take the shot, but it was blocked by the Laker wall.
The Tiger defense, which is currently ranked 2nd in the country, came up big on the backside of the second half against the high power Laker offense. The Lakers, which average 4.13 goals along with 13.5 shots per game, would only manage to get three shots off in the final 25 minutes. Even the urgency of both teams would not lend itself to tangible scoring opportunities for the remaining minutes, sending the game to extra time.
The intensity and physical nature of the match would continue into extra time, despite the fatigue on both sides. The game winner would come in the 6th minute as the Tigers progressed the ball down the right sideline almost to the corner. A 50/50 ball bounced loose to an open Rafael Vacas who would take two touches before finding the top right corner of the net, past a diving Laker goalie. Vacas's conference leading 18th goal would prove to be the most important, securing the victory for the Tigers in the golden goal format of overtime.
"This is a great victory for the program. After losing in the 2015 and 2016 finals, I stated that we would keep working to get back and win it and we did with an amazing group of guys," Head Coach Rafael Martinez said about the win. "I am so proud of them and I believe the difference at the end was the amount of work we have put in along with being there for each other. Every player gave his best for the team, and when you have 11 players fighting for each other like that, and people coming off the bench ready to continue to fight, it is very difficult for the other team to beat you. Now we need to regroup and think about next Saturday's game as it will be just as difficult and we want to continue achieving this season."
The win brings the Tigers their first ICCAC Championship (in any sport) in six years and moves them on to the Great Lakes District Championship. The District Championship will feature Marshalltown versus the winners of Region IV, Morton College (19-3, and be played in Marshalltown on November 3rd with a 2PM kickoff. The winner of the Great Lakes District will advance to the National Junior College Athletic Association National Tournament set for November 12th-17th in Daytona Beach, FL.