Panthers come up short
DES MOINES — “We just came up a little short,” said Mt. Pleasant Boys’ Soccer Coach Neil Schmitz.
The Panther soccer team’s first-ever trip to the state tournament didn’t end exactly how the they wanted it to, but making it to Des Moines was an accomplishment for the seniors and left the underclassmen hungry for another chance.
The third-seeded Panthers (13-4) dropped their match against No. 6 Storm Lake (14-1) on Thursday afternoon by a score of 3-1, and their first-ever trip to the state tournament came to an end in the quarterfinal round.
“The first half was not our best half,” Coach Neil Schmitz said. “We knew we were playing a tough team and needed our best game, but we just didn’t have the intensity and focus we needed in the first 40 minutes.”
Storm Lake’s Hunter Lee, assisted by Juan Rosales, found the back of the net with 15:39 left in the first half, and the Tornadoes went into the break leading 1-0.
The Panthers turned it up in the second half, Schmitz said, but still couldn’t overtake their opponents.
The Tornadoes’ Edgar Raya scored with 30:05 left, and Victor Aviles put in their last goal with 18 minutes left to play, assisted by Ruben Aldaba.
Down 3-0, all Mt. Pleasant could do was make a dent in Storm Lake’s lead when Derek Holtkamp put one in the goal — assisted by Alex Le — with 8:15 left to play.
“At that level, there aren’t any bad teams,” Schmitz said. “But I’m proud of our guys, they did really come out strong in the second half.”
Looking back over the season, Schmitz has plenty to be proud of.
“It was just a phenomenal season, and I am extremely excited about our record,” he said. The Panthers went 13-4 overall and 7-1 in the conference, sharing the SEC title with Fairfield. They finished the regular season ranked No. 14 in Class 2A.
“We’ll lose a lot of seniors who will be tough to replace — (including) Michael Alderson, who made some tremendous saves to keep us in the game,” Schmitz said.
Alderson has been a four-year varsity keeper for the Panthers, and he had 13 saves in the match against Storm Lake.
The team also graduates 12 other seniors from this year’s roster. However, Schmitz is quick to note that Mt. Pleasant does have good players coming back and coming up from JV.
“All the underclassmen were talking about how they ... loved excitement of being (at state). It’s something they haven’t had in past,” he said. “All these guys have talked about how we’re going to be here next year. The intensity is there, the hunger is there — they want to be here, and they want to advance the next round.”
The Panthers will get a start on next season when they participate in a summer showcase.
“We’re taking about 15 guys — guys who will have to pick up the slack next year,” Schmitz said.
The showcase is June 14-16 in Burlington.