With 15:49 left to play, it was hard to discern which was louder: the crowd’s reaction to a close goal or the clang off the middle post after Lionettes junior midfielder Lauren Neely missed the free-kick from 14 yards out. It was McKinney High’s closest chance at snagging the win after junior forward Kathy Millar was illegally taken down on a breakaway.
But neither the Lionettes nor McKinney Boyd could make a point during Tuesday night’s soccer match, resulting in a 0-0 tie.
The Lionettes and Lady Broncos may have ended their crosstown showdown without a win, but the season isn’t over for either team. The Lady Broncos clinched a playoff berth earlier in the season, and McKinney’s battle for a playoff spot has just begun. MHS Head Coach Alex Pantarotto is proud of his team’s effort after losing to Boyd 4-0 a few weeks ago, and is confident in his girls intensity on the field going forward. The Lionettes will next face off against the Plano Senior Lady Wildcats in a one-off game to decide who gets the final playoff spot.
“This game was so important. It was a letdown for the girls to lose 4-0 to [Boyd] at their home (last month), and we’ve talked about how every game from then on out we would be like a playoff game,” Pantarotto said. “We’re going to be very motivated to be in playoffs. I know Plano wants to be there but I really think that if [the girls] play like they played tonight, they played a very physical game tonight, it’s going to be very hard to beat us.”
McKinney has played Plano Senior twice this season, losing 2-1 on February 11 and defeating them 1-0 at home on February 28. Both teams needed to win their final games to clinch the final 5A Region 2 playoff spot, but since both ended their seasons in a tie, a pre-playoff game has been declared. Details for the game have not yet been released, but it is expected to be later this week.
The Lionettes will need to continue the intensity they showed when shutting down Boyd if they want their season to continue in post-regulation. Although injuries have plagued their season, the Lionettes newly found fierce field play will be key to their success.
“We started off with a different kind of pace, but I see our team slowly picking up. That’s a good thing, we want to go into playoffs picking up not just hanging in there,” Pantarotto said. “We’ve played some really tough teams. This district in unbelievable.”
The “unbelievable” 5A district will see a drastic change-up next year and while both Boyd and McKinney still have post-seasons ahead of them, the tie Tuesday night could be the last the two see of each other on the field. With the new district realignments Boyd will join some of the current 5A teams in the newly created 6A division. Coach Pantarotto is OK with the change in divisions though and hopes his girls can fare better against smaller teams.
“Boyd has had a ton of talent playing together and our squad is a lot shorter than the rest of the 5A teams,” Pantarotto said. “Allen has like 30 players and we put in 20 so it’s hard, especially when we see injuries like we did this season.”
Although the MHS-Boyd battle may be coming to a close, the Crosstown Showdown will continue when McKinney North joins the Lionettes in the 5A division. This season isn’t over yet, however, and Pantarotto and his team hope to face Boyd at least one more time in the playoffs. Ties won’t cut it from here on out and after going three games straight without a point the Lionettes intensity needs to start resulting in goals.
“In games, you have to score. To win, you have to score. It doesn’t really matter if you had ten times the goal attempts inside the box if you can’t put it in the net,” Pantarotto said.
Photos by TSB’s Sawyer Erickson