Boys soccer’s playoff hopes dashed in loss to Pearce

Haley Samsel, Sports Columnist

After advancing to the postseason for the first time under head coach Doug Adams, the boys soccer team was defeated 1-2 by J.J. Pearce in an overtime nail-biter that came down to the final minutes of the game. Senior defenseman and the coach’s son, Jon, claimed the Wildcats’ sole goal of the night, scoring in the 43rd minute of play.

The first half was marked by solid defense on Plano’s end, despite the players’ evident nerves in the opening minutes. Both teams struggled to gain scoring opportunities, as a lack of communication and ball control led to sloppy possessions on both sides. According to Adams, high winds also influenced offensive and defensive execution. Still, the Wildcats demonstrated their ability to keep up with state ranked Pearce, ending the first half tied 0-0 with their opponent.

“It was difficult to gauge what was causing us more problems – the weather or their defense,” Adams said. “I was proud of the way the team maintained their composure through all of it. Pearce is a talented, talented team, and we kept up with them in every aspect of the game.”

After an offensive drought in the first half, Jon’s goal for Plano early in the second half was a welcome sight for the Wildcats. But Pearce answered back with a goal of their own in the 46th minute. Although Plano could not capitalize on the momentum from their first score, the Wildcats managed to match Pearce’s offensive strategy with aggressive defense throughout the second half. A number of saves by senior goalkeeper Curtis Peters gave the Wildcats enough security on defense to mount more offensive attacks.

“Curtis and Jon are probably the foremost leaders on our team,” Adams said. “They were the guys getting everyone focused all season, and their performances tonight show how big of a hole they will leave when they graduate. They’ll be hard to replace.”

Led by junior midfielder Reece Schattle, Plano had multiple opportunities to take the lead late in regulation play, with one shot being kicked away from an open net by a Pearce player inches before it entered the goal. Despite the Wildcats’ best efforts to win the game in regulation, the game went into overtime with a score of 1-1.

“Something inside of me knew we would have to win in regulation if we were going to win it,” Schattle said. “We had so many chances to take the lead. We were so close to making it happen, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”

Due to playoff rules stipulating that a bi-divisional playoff game cannot end in a tie, the game advanced to two mandatory 10 minute periods of overtime. The first overtime period, though exciting, ended without either team taking the lead. Superb defense by Plano, led by junior defenseman Connor Bianchi, contained Pearce’s explosive forwards and kept them from converting their speed into goals.

“Ask anyone on our team and they’ll say that guys like Connor and Curtis are the reason we even made it to this game,” Schattle said. “Our offense will have to step it up next season if we want to get past teams like [Pearce].”

The second overtime period brought heartbreak to Plano, with Pearce scoring with a little over six minutes left in overtime. While the Wildcats continued to strike back on the offensive end, they were unable to convert any of their opportunities into goals and lost 1-2. Plano finishes the season 4-4-2 in district play and holding the unofficial title of city champs by holding the tiebreaker over Plano East and Plano West.

“Despite how bitter this loss tastes, we made a lot of progress this season,” Adams said. “That’s what I’m telling the guys. They’re down on themselves right now, but in a few months they will be able to see that the work they did this year paid off. Now that we know what works, next year’s team will go even further.”