Panthers a force in boys soccer

The Plymouth boys soccer program made a loud statement in Division 3 competition this past season.

The Panthers proved they were among the elite teams in D-3. PHS advanced to state with a 1-0 overtime win over perennial powerhouse Green Bay Notre Dame in a sectional final on Oct. 28.

In the state semifinals on Nov. 3, the Panthers gave No. 1-ranked and defending state champion Delavan-Darien all it could handle before losing, 2-0, in overtime.

“We played against the No. 1 team and played at their level and many times even better than them. We showed we’re not a No. 4 [seeded] team,” said Panther head coach Rommy Herrera.

PHS was seeded No. 4 in the state tournament.

“My goal since I started at Plymouth [in 2011] is to make sure the state and people around us see us as a strong soccer program,”said Herrera.

Plymouth plays a very physical and aggressive brand of soccer which is a key part of Herrera’s coaching philosophy. The Panthers’ physical, aggressive, relentless play has paid big dividends.

“We’re a physical team and we fight for the ball and we don’t give up. I think other teams struggled with our physicality. I want to bring the skills but also teams that fights for the ball and are physical and aggressive,” said the coach.

“You have to have everyone playing physical.”

This year’s PHS squad had a good combination of skill, speed, physicality and aggressiveness. In the state match, the Panthers won several 50/50 balls by being more physical and aggressive than the Comets.

“They [Panthers] don’t give up. There were times that we were attacking and attacking but they kept coming back, so that impressed me,” said Comet head coach Mike Marse.

The Panthers gave it all they had against Delavan-Darien and should be proud of their effort and determination. Plymouth’s defense, which was outstanding all season, stepped up again at state. The Comets, who averaged 5.4 goals per game coming into state, were held scoreless for 101 minutes before finally scoring in the second of the two 10-minute overtime periods.

The seniors on the Panther team will be sorely missed. Ten of the 11 seniors have played together since grade school and they left their mark on the PHS soccer program.

“I’m going to miss the seniors big-time. Now it’s going to be a few years for us to rebuild the program. When you lose 11 seniors it’s going to be hard,” said Herrera.

“The seniors were a huge part of the program. Since their sophomore years I knew when they were juniors and seniors their hardwork would pay off and you could see that today [versus Delavan-Darien],” he said.

“I love these guys. These guys are are my family. I hate to leave them,” said PHS senior midfielder Eric Preissner after the state match about his teammates. “This was the best season of our lives.”

“I’m proud of all of these guys,” said Panther senior defender Adam Smith following the state match.

“This group of 10 seniors have been together since we were 10 and we gave it our all tonight.”

I was impressed with the fan support the Panthers received this past season, especially in the playoffs. PHS had a huge following at state.

“It [fans’ support] meant a ton. They’ve been there since the beginning [of the season] and to see that amount of people come and support us [at state] was incredible and it made this a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Smith.

“It’s been a great season,” said Herrera.

The Panthers won their third straight East Central Conference title and advanced to state for the first time since 2010. PHS finished 8-1-1 in the ECC and 17-4-2 overall.

While PHS loses a talented group of seniors, the team has a good nucleus back as it will look to continue a strong Panther soccer tradition.

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