The Spencer girls soccer team has had the IGHSAU state tournament title game circled on the calendar before their first match this season.
According to Spencer head coach John Hansel, the team's goal was pretty clear cut. The Tigers set their sights on winning the Class 2A state title.
"The girls set the goal to win state at the beginning of the season. The first time we went to state, our goal was to go to state," Hansel said. "The goal this year is to win state. I think there's a good shot of that. Anything can happen when both teams are at the same level."
The Tigers feel they have as good of a chance as anyone. There are no undefeated teams among the eight state qualifiers in 2A and the Tigers are one of three teams - along with ADM and Waverly-Shell Rock - that have only one loss this season. Spencer is 19-1, ADM is 17-1 and W-SR is 15-1.
Despite being one of the three one-loss teams, the Tigers are the No. 4 seed. ADM secured the top seed and W-SR is No. 2. Dallas Center-Grimes, which is 13-2, is the No. 3 seed. Cedar Rapids Xavier (No. 5, 14-4), Pella (No. 6, 15-2), Lewis Central (No. 7, 14-4) and Notre Dame/West Burlington/Danville (No. 8, 15-2) round out the field.
Spencer plays Xavier at 1:45 p.m. Thursday in the first-round state match on Field No. 8 at Cownie Soccer Complex in Des Moines.
Spencer's lone loss of the season is to W-SR during the GoHawks' annual tournament. Both teams played two matches on the day before facing in the tournament title, which W-SR won 2-0.
W-SR's lone loss on the season was to Xavier, 3-2. ADM's only loss to 1-0 to Gilbert, which is the No. 4 seed in the 1A tournament.
"There isn't a team that is blowing out teams from the top-eight rankings," Hansel said. "I feel like with the seeding, any team could be one, two or three to me."
What is known is that the Tigers have the top offense of any team in 2A. Spencer has 118 goals on the season, 30 more goals than Mount Vernon with 88.
The Tigers are led by sophomore Mia Fank, who has 34 goals on the season. She has taken 93 shots and 60 of those have been on goal (56.7 percent). Fank is tied for third in 2A in goals with Carlisle's Madi Watts. Pella's Grace Held leads 2A with 38 goals and W-SR's Kenzie Roling is second with 36. Fank has taken fewer shots than all four of those players and has a better shots on goal percentage out of anyone in the top-10 in goals scored.
Fank can be selective with her shots because she has plenty of offensive options around her. Sophomore Kirsten Small has 18 goals and 14 assists on the season and junior Chrissy Anderson has 15 goals. Freshman Brooke Moser and junior Isabella Burger each have eight goals. Burger has 12 assists. Freshman Alexa Johnson and sophomore Alyssa Rouse each have seven goals.
"If you shut out one of our players, there's going to be another one. (Denison-Schleswig) man-marked Mia (in the regional title match), which frustrated her but she had two assists and a goal," Hansel said. "She will give it up to someone else that can finish. It is nice the depth that we have."
The Tigers defense has been just as good as their offense. Spencer has only allowed five goals this season - two to W-SR, two in a win over Treynor and one in a win over Glenwood.
Burger is the leader in the back, having played the position for the past 2 1/2 seasons. Junior Autumn Noah is in her second season playing in the back. Johnson and freshman Taylor Vanderah are both freshman but both have proven to be a strong addition to the back line.
"Our back four have a lot of experience. Our two freshman have a lot of club experience. That back row is where most of our speed is," Hansel said. "Our keeper (sophomore) Payton Cooper hasn't had to make many saves since the ball doesn't get to her often but in practice, she makes spectacular saves. I feel confident she can do that at state."