After having its postseason fate decided in the final week of the season the past two years, the Plano Senior girls soccer team was bracing for another frenzied homestretch — only this time, the Lady Wildcats controlled their own destiny.
Some comeback heroics willed Plano to a pivotal win over rival Plano East on Feb. 28, keeping the club in fourth place in District 9-6A and clearing the final hurdle toward a prospective two weeks off before closing against McKinney Boyd and Prosper.
But with the inside track on nabbing 9-6A’s final playoff spot, and halting a two-year postseason skid in the process, Plano’s victorious exit from Clark Stadium against the Lady Panthers amounted to their final match of the season.
“They were really upset. They couldn’t believe it,” said Heather Morse, Plano head coach. “I tried comparing it to all the professional teams not playing and how it wouldn’t have made much sense for us to play. They understood the situation, but it was still really hard for the seniors that didn’t get to enjoy their senior night.
“We didn’t have the closure we wanted, but we all talked about it and I think the kids are in a good place.”
Part of that stems from being in the position the Lady Wildcats were in prior to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the season’s cancellation. Although the back-and-forth nature of 9-6A guaranteed nothing, Plano had given itself as opportune a hand as it could have hoped for heading into spring break.
The Lady Wildcats picked up points in their final three matches, including a draw over a Plano West that sat just two points back in the standings at the season’s conclusion. The 2-1 comeback over East was a much-needed boost as well, with sophomore Mackenzie Mieras and junior Elizabeth Dlott netting the two goals to send Plano off on a winning note.
“Everybody was feeling really good. It was a game we needed to win,” Morse said. “East was a difficult team to play and we knew we just had to get out of there with a win. We went down 1-0 but were able to battle back and go ahead. That was a huge morale booster going into the break.”
Despite not getting their final say over a playoff spot, Plano’s 2020 campaign ended at 10-4-6, including a 3-4-3 mark in conference play.
“We had a really good year, considering the circumstances. We had just about solidified a playoff spot with two games remaining,” Morse said. “I do think we would have held that spot and maybe even jumped up a spot, but I’m very proud. The kids played hard.
“… They should be proud of making it that far, but we were definitely heartbroken for our seniors.”
The Lady Wildcats had their final home match, set for March 17 against Boyd, circled as their annual senior night — with seniors Blair Woodward, Samantha Sanchez, Caitlyn Hernandez, Emma Nolte, Megan Rumery and Blake Hughes all set to be recognized for their contributions to the program. Those veterans meshed with the juniors and sophomores for a team that Morse said authored a positive atmosphere.
“This year, we had a lot of leadership come forward. I didn’t name captains this year, but we had leadership emerge from our seniors, juniors and sophomores,” Morse said. “Everybody was committed to working hard, and everyone wanted to win and play well. It was a really positive, fun year for everybody.”
With plans for honoring the program’s seniors still in the works, Morse remains optimistic about Plano’s prospects heading into the offseason. The Lady Wildcats are projected to return three-quarters of their roster, but will have to acclimate to a new-look district that includes a wealth of juggernaut programs between Lewisville ISD and Coppell in 6-6A.
“We’re headed into another ridiculous district … and it’s going to be a battle next year. It’s going to be a tactical one for us,” Morse said. “I think, physically and skill-wise, we can hang, but it’s going to come down to us being tactical and making good decisions.”