Confident Panthers enjoy dream season

by Greg Ceilley
of The Review staff


ADAM SMITH (left) of Plymouth and Matt Polack of Green Bay Notre Dame attempt a header in soccer action this past season. Plymouth’s Connor Joseph (22) and Keegan Gafney converge. – Photo by Doug Pierce ADAM SMITH (left) of Plymouth and Matt Polack of Green Bay Notre Dame attempt a header in soccer action this past season. Plymouth’s Connor Joseph (22) and Keegan Gafney converge. – Photo by Doug Pierce PLYMOUTH – The Plymouth Panthers’ memorable boys soccer season this fall was a result of hard work, confidence and teamwork.

PHS earned a trip to state for the first time since 2010, won its third straight East Central Conference title – posting an 8-1-1 record – and captured Division 3 regional and sectional titles. The regional crown was the Panthers’ second straight.

“I could not be more proud of this group of boys. They had a dream this season and they never stopped believing they were going to be able to achieve it,” said Panther head coach Rommy Herrera.

“Going to state is not easy. You have to play well and you need to be strong. This season these boys worked very hard during practices and during every game.


THE PLYMOUTH PANTHERS celebrate after edging Fox Valley Lutheran (Appleton), 2-1, in overtime in a regional soccer championship match this past season. – Photo by Doug Pierce THE PLYMOUTH PANTHERS celebrate after edging Fox Valley Lutheran (Appleton), 2-1, in overtime in a regional soccer championship match this past season. – Photo by Doug Pierce “Having a tougher schedule also helped us to figure out weaknesses and strengths sooner than later and be able to improve after every game and practice,” Herrera pointed out.

The Panthers finished 17- 4-2 overall and won two overtime battles en route to state – 2-1 over Fox Valley Lutheran (Appleton) in the regional finals, and 1-0 against Green Bay Notre Dame in the sectional finals which advanced PHS to the state tournament.

PHS took defending D-3 champion Delavan-Darien into overtime before falling, 2-0, in a state semifinal match.

Going into the season, Herrera’s top goals were to win ECC and state titles.

“I am not surprised [with the strong success of the team]. We had a great season because when you have a group of boys with a winning mentality that is willing to go longer and harder, anything can happen,” he said.

The coach said the highlights of the season were winning the ECC and regional crowns, and making it to state.

“Individually, [the highlights] were getting better after every game and practice. Also, it was great to see how close this team was and how hard they were willing to work for each other,” said Herrera who completed his seventh season as the Panthers’ head coach.

“Having a winning mentality and being coachable was key to our success this season. Also, playing a stronger schedule helped us in the long run to be stronger, better, and also get the No. 1 [sectional] seed.”

The Panthers had a total team effort this past season.

“This year we had the smallest varsity team I have coached in seven years. We started with only 15 players. However, everyone pretty soon found an important role on the team. Each player was key to our success,” the coach noted.

“I want to thank all the parents and coaches my players have had through the years that were willing to put time into this sport in order for their player to follow their passion.

“The more parents and coaches that are willing to learn about soccer and to keep players motivated and excited about playing the most popular sport in the world, the more kids we are going to have year after year playing soccer. The more kids we get, the easier it’s going to be to have successful seasons like this one this year,” said Herrera.

PHS loses a strong group of 11 seniors off this year’s squad but will return several key players.

“Next season our schedule is going to be very similar. We are going to have some players back that will definitely make a difference,” said the coach.

The key [to having success] is going to be what they do during the off-season to be in good shape. I hope these guys can carry on the winning mentality from this past team.”

PHS TEAM AWARDS

Sophomore forward Clayton Lautenschlaeger was voted the Panthers’ Most Valuable Player for the season by his teammates. He also earned the team’s Gold Medal for scoring the most goals this year with 20.

Senior defender Nathan Francis earned the Hustle Award. Senior midfielder Eric Preissner was selected the Most Improved Player.

Senior defender Adam Smith received the Leader Panther Award and the Griebel Award. The Griebel award recognizes an individual who is a talented soccer player, a sound student, a great teammate, has a passion for the game and is a good sportsman.

Senior center midfielder Garrison Pierce led PHS in assists with 10. Junior goalkeeper Gabe Thull had a team-high 102 saves and surrendered only 13 goals in 23 matches.


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