The Pinewood Prep Boys Soccer team didn’t get to return to the state title game this year, but the team’s seniors have left their mark on the program.
The Panthers defeated Ben Lippen last week to advance to the SCISA AAA semifinals. The team hosted defending state champion Hammond May 8 and were eliminated from the playoffs with a 3-0 loss.
The match was scoreless after a half, but Hammond capitalized on a penalty kick in the first five minutes of the second half and that shifted momentum away from the Panthers.
“It was one of those game-changers that is hard to bounce back from, but our kids never stopped playing,” Pinewood coach Andy Morgan said. “We had a really great season and I’m happy with what they did. Some people might say we overachieved but I’ve been telling our seniors we could make it to the state championship game from day one. Now where we might have overachieved is in the type of team chemistry we had and the leadership our seniors provided for our younger players.”
The Panthers were once a SCISA power in boys’ soccer, but haven’t had as much success in recent years. The program may be at another turning point. Pinewood tied for first-place in the region this season and earned the No. 1 seed for the playoffs based on a tiebreaker. The Panthers had 12 shutouts this season and showed they could play with anyone, but didn’t have the depth some teams have.
“We weren’t a big goal-scoring team so I think sometimes teams thought we couldn’t play with the top teams, but our boys are fantastic,” Morgan said. “They did a super job so I’m proud of them.”
He credits seniors Nolan Heflin, Ben DeLillo, Mikey McVeigh, Preston Walthall, Gabe Gross, Max Grothaus and Ben Diffley largely for the team’s success.
“I think this group brought Pinewood Boys Soccer back to the forefront,” Morgan said. “We kind of fell off the radar a little, but (former coach) Chip Eakes did a good job bringing us back. This group has proven we are coming back strong.”