By Colin Bado, TSB Staff
PLANO — “You don’t deserve goals, you score goals,” said McKinney High girls soccer coach Alex Pantarotto after his team defeated Richardson Pearce 1-0 in a UIL Region 2 Bi-District playoff game.
The Lionettes might have “deserved” a lot more than one goal against their opening postseason opponent, but it only took one goal for the Lionettes to move on to the next round.
MHS, the No. 4 seed from District 10, finished only 4-6 in district play but bounced back strong in this opening bi-district matchup.
“The only thing that matters in the playoffs is winning,” Pantarotto said. “Regardless of how well or poorly you play, as long as you win, you will continue to move on. Tonight, we played our game —possession soccer — and we won.”
The Lionettes finished the regular season with three tough losses against talented district opponents. Entering the postseason on a losing streak was not the ideal disposition the Lionettes had in mind. Despite their recent struggles, their previous losses were in no way indicative of the way the Lionettes performed at Tom Kimbrough Stadium against Pearce on Friday night.
A tough battle between two premier teams left the crowd screaming with anxiety during the entire second half. Both goalkeepers dictated the pace of the match with their jaw-dropping saves in front of the net.
“The goalkeepers played outstanding,” said Pantarotto.
Pearce entered the match 11-1 in District 9 and was the top seed from its district. Still, the final score could have been far different, but the goalkeepers kept the match intact.
Pearce came close to taking an early lead as Casey Carrillo took a direct free kick just beyond the 18-yard box. After lobbing the ball over the wall, in heavy traffic, the ball was headed towards the McKinney goal but just missed as it bounced off of the crossbar.
McKinney goalkeeper Madelynn Schober illustrated her tenacity in the 21st minute. Pearce forward Audrey Silver worked her way past the Lionette defense and cut swiftly toward the ball that was approaching the Lionettes’ goal. Schober, without hesitation, left her net and sprinted to the ball. Sacrificing her body, Schober dove into Silver’s feet, deflecting the ball away. Throughout the duration of the game, this was Schober’s theme as she continued to play aggressively, pulling out all stops to give her team an advantage.
Lionettes star midfielder Natalie Throneberry returned to the pitch against Pearce after sitting out during the McKinney Boyd game due to an ankle injury. From the 30th through the 35th minute she let her presence be known. Directing the offense down the field, she managed two powerful shots that were sure to go in, but Pearce goalkeeper Riley Ray denied her attempts with amazing saves. Unfortunately, during her final offensive attack, Throneberry re-injured her ankle in the 36th minute, sidelining her for the remainder of the game.
Entering the second half, McKinney began to take complete control of possession. Relentless in their efforts, the Lionettes weaved through the Pierce defense creating opportunities to shoot high percentage shots. In the 44th minute, a Lionette corner kick found a head inside the box, but Ray’s quick reaction deflected the shot away from the goal.
Frustration amongst the McKinney fans began to set in. “The score should be 4 to nothing,” said one fan to another.
The Lionette defense created few errors on the night, but one error in particular could have cost them a goal. A poor pass to the middle of the field was intercepted but Audrey Silver. Silver broke away from the Lionette defense, and Schober was the last line of defense. Silver shot and Schober dove to her right and somehow deflected the ball away from the goal. McKinney fans erupted with cheers of amazement.
Finally, in the 58th minute, McKinney’s determination would pay off. Lauren Neely elected to take a corner kick and the Lionettes executed the set play to perfection. The ball found midfielder Kaelyn Steitz in the 6-yard box and she placed the ball into the back of the net, behind Riley Ray.
After taking the lead, McKinney continued to pursue offensively. Neely came close to putting the Lionettes up by two, but Ray maintained her high level of play and made another astounding save.
Pearce refused to give up as the clock slowly ticked down to zero. McKinney played tight defensively and refused to allow a last minute goal.
“The key to this game was heart,” sad Pantarotto.
The Lionettes’ next playoff game, an Area Round matchup, will be against Mesquite Horn at Plano’s Clark Stadium on Friday April 5 at 7:30 p.m. Mesquite Horn, the No. 2 seed from District 12, beat Garland 2-0 in another bi-district matchup.
McKinney’s other soccer teams played on Thursday night in playoff games this week. For TSB’s Game of the Week, featuring the MHS boys’ victory, please click here. And for the our Scoreboard roundup of games from Thursday, please click here.