Panthers ready for top-ranked Comets

by Greg Ceilley
of The Review staff

GARRISON PIERCE (20) of Plymouth executes a header in Saturday’s sectional soccer finals versus Green Bay Notre Dame. Looking on are Plymouth’s Clayton Lautenschlaeger and Notre Dame’s Will Guevara. – Photo by Doug Pierce GARRISON PIERCE (20) of Plymouth executes a header in Saturday’s sectional soccer finals versus Green Bay Notre Dame. Looking on are Plymouth’s Clayton Lautenschlaeger and Notre Dame’s Will Guevara. – Photo by Doug Pierce PLYMOUTH – A confident Plymouth Panther boys soccer team is looking forward to taking on defending champion Delavan- Darien in the semifinals of the Division 3 state tournament Friday, Nov. 3.

Delavan-Darien, 25-1-2, is ranked No. 1 in the Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association D-3 poll and PHS, 17-3-2, is ranked No. 7. The Comets are the No. 1 seed at state and the Panthers are No. 4.

“My team cannot wait [to play the Comets]. We know it is going to be difficult but we are ready for it,” said Panther head coach Rommy Herrera.

“We respect our rival and we will show them how much respect we have for them by playing our best game of the season and giving all we have in every play.”

The state tourney will be held in the Kohler Engines Stadium at the Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee. Plymouth’s semifinal match will start at 4:30 p.m. The PHS/Delavan-Darien winner will face the winner of the other semifinal match between Amery and Mount Horeb in the championship match Saturday at 7 p.m.

“The first game at state is going to be the most difficult [for PHS] this season. We are playing against a great team,” said Herrera.

“Their numbers don’t lie. They are back to state after winning state last year. That’s what makes this game so exciting. We are a fast, physical team as well [as the Comets]. I am expecting this to be a great game of soccer.”

Delavan-Darien is making its third state appearance in the last four years. The Comets won the D-3 state title in 20014 and the D-2 state crown in 2000. PHS will be playing in the state tourney for the first time since 2010. The Panthers won the D-2 state championship in 2002.

The Comets have an explosive attack, led by senior forwards Zeus Huerta and Jason Cano with 50 and 49 goals, respectfully (through 27 games). Cano has a team-high 27 assists.

“It’s going to be an exciting match between the best offense [from the Comets] in the state tournament against the best defense [from PHS],” said Herrera.

The coach pointed out what impresses him about the Comets.

“They have players that have scored many goals this season. Also, I saw them play last year at state and they are very fast and have some skillful players,” he said.

Herrera said his team’s defense needs to focus on more than Huerta and Cano.

“They have a good team overall. We need to be aware of their counter attack and every player on their team. They have a deep team with good players that at any moment can make a difference,” he said.

The coach stated the keys for PHS to win.

“We have been playing really well and we can’t change that. We need to be composed defensively and strong mentally. We also need to finish when we have the opportunity,” he said.

“I am expecting a close game where the team that makes fewer mistakes will win.”

The Panthers’ top scorer is sophomore forward Clayton Lautenschlaeger with 20 goals. Senior center midfielder Garrison Pierce has a team-best 10 assists.

PHS junior goalie Gabe Thull has made 95 saves and is allowing an average of only .80 goals per match. The Panthers have an impressive 15 shutouts in 22 matches.

Herrera explained why his team has had a very strong season.

“The key to our success this season has been the winning mentality, hard work and being coachable. You cannot have success without these three things,” he noted.

“If you want to win titles you have to believe you can beat anyone and play like you deserve to win. Hard work is key because without that a winning mentality would not be enough. Being coachable helps us understand that everyone always needs some help and a little push to be able to get to the next level.”

PHS and Delvan-Darien have three common opponents in Nicolet, Fox Valley Lutheran (Appleton) and Kewaskum. The Comets defeated all three while PHS lost to Nicolet and beat the other two.

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