It may have been an 80-minute game, but Coach Alex Pantarotto told the McKinney High Lionettes that if they wanted to walk away with the win, they were going to need to win the second half. It didn’t matter that they were down 1-0 to Richardson Pearce. It didn’t matter that they had fought in an extra game just to get to playoffs. It didn’t matter that the wind was against them. If they won the second half, the game was theirs. And that’s just what they did. The MHS girls soccer team owned the second half of their 5A playoff opener against Richardson Pearce and ended the game 2-1.
Although it was technically the first round of playoffs for the two teams, McKinney had already started their battle toward state a week prior in a pre-playoff game against Plano Senior to snag a spot in the tournament. That win got them to playoffs, but it also ignited the playoff mentality that has shown in their players skills on the field. After losing to the Lions 1-0 last year, Pearce was looking for revenge and after an undefeated district season they had a good chance of getting it.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game because last year it was a tough game. The kind of soccer they play kind of disturbs everything we tried to do,” Pantarotto said. “It took us a while to settle down, especially after they scored that goal, but we knew that the second half was going to be different because they didn’t manage the ball very well.”
Pearce opened up the game with a goal from Alexa Hallum, but despite being down the Lionettes came out the second half and it was easy to see that they had control of the field. It may have taken another 20 minutes after a slew of injuries and questionable no-calls, but at 17:25 sophomore Morgan Ford scored for the Lionettes and tied up the game. There was no time for celebration though because McKinney wasn’t willing to let this game go into extra time.
“I immediately just wanted another one, I mean I didn’t want to got to penalty kicks,” Ford said. “We didn’t have anything to lose, if we lost it would all be over, so we just had to put it all out there.”
Junior Kathy Millar agreed with her teammates sentiment and knew that if they wanted this win it’d have to be earned in the second and not in extra time. Getting her second game winning goal in a row, Millar stepped up and snagged another point with 8:28 left in the game. After working so hard against Plano Senior last week, Millar wanted the rest of the tournament to know they had earned their place in playoffs and they weren’t going to be defeated so easily.
“We played in a really tough district and it just seemed kind of sad to fight through all that and just lose in the first round so we really pulled together at halftime,” Millar said. “We were a bit discouraged at halftime because we were down, but once we got that second goal we knew we were moving forward. Now we’ll need to come out every game just like we finished this second half.”
Although the second half did belong the Lionettes, the physicality of the game began to take a toll on the girls. With a number of collisions and hobbling off the field, Coach Pantarotto’s team slowly began to dwindle down, but in a year that faced an untold amount of injuries Pantarotto has only come to trust his team more.
“This has been the year of injuries for McKinney High. I always say next man up and that next man has to play to the level of the player that just came off. That’s how we get opportunities for those that are waiting to play and that’s when they get a chance to show off their skills,” Pantarotto said.
If the past few games are any indication Pantarotto will have to rely on his whole team again as they face Rockwall-Heath in the next round of playoffs. Rockwall-Heath defeated Lakeview Centennial 2-0 Thursday night to advance and Pantarotto expects the two teams will play at Lake Highlands stadium next Friday night.
Photos by TSB’s Sawyer Erickson