It had been a season of ties for the McKinney High Lionettes soccer team.
They hadn’t made a point in three games, they ended their season in a tie against McKinney Boyd, which tied them for fourth place in the district with Plano Senior High as well as for most ties in the season with six each. The ties, although certainly better than losses, had become a burden on the Lionettes this season and as they clawed their way into a pre-playoff tie-breaker, everyone knew ties wouldn’t cut it anymore.
The Lionettes broke their streak of ties Friday night though as they beat the Plano Senior Lady Wildcats 2-0 and earned a playoff berth with the other three District 10-5A qualifiers. After both teams tied their final games of the regular season, a one-off game was scheduled for Friday Night at McKinney Boyd to decide who would continue forward in playoffs. The one-off game couldn’t end in another tie, but for well past the first half it seemed like the game was headed into overtime. Head Coach Alex Pantarotto wasn’t looking to go to extra time though and his team rallied in the second half to take the lead, and the win.
“We had a short squad and I don’t make that many subs during the game, so going into extended period time was really going to hurt our starters,” Pantarotto said “In the first half we were stuck in this shell, but then we put it in the net and helped us continue to score.”
That first goal changed the entire pace of the game. With just around 16 minutes left in regulation play junior Kathy Millar raced past Plano’s defense to feed it to teammate junior Lauren Neely who sailed it in the net. The goal was McKinney’s first in four games, but that intensity didn’t stop.
Mere minutes later Millar sprinted past the defense again and opened herself up for a header past Plano’s sophomore keeper Sarah Heady. After a win and a loss to Senior throughout the regular season Millar knew it was going to be a tough game, but once their energy picked up they couldn’t be stopped.
“The momentum got going and we were just pumped. Our goal of getting to playoffs became clearer,” Millar said. “When we got the first goal we had to keep it up because there was still a ton of time left for them to come back, but once we got the second goal I was feeling much more optimistic about us advancing.”
Although Millar and Neely’s offensive work got the Lionettes the goals they had needed for three games, McKinney’s defense ruled the second half against over the Lady Wild Cats. Coach Pantarotto attributed the team’s strength in their zone to senior keeper Madelynn Schober and sophomore sweeper Morgan Ford. Pantarotto thinks Ford in particular will play a key role in the team’s future success based on her smart decisions and control.
“In a soccer game you’ll always have a couple opportunities here and there, and thankfully we stepped it up defensively in the second half,” Pantarotto said, “We took all the chances away from the other team.”
The Lionettes will next play Richardson Pearce High in the first round of playoffs next Friday evening, March 28, at Ron Poe Stadium at 7:30. This matchup will mark a rematch for Pearce who lost to the Lionettes 1-0 in the first round of playoffs last year. Pantarotto and the Lionettes won’t have it easy though, Pearce led the 9-5A district and had an undefeated district season going 11-0.
Photos By TSB’s Sawyer Erickson