By Andy Krutsinger, Mt. Pleasant News
MARION ? The mountain in front of the Mt. Pleasant boys? soccer team was just too steep to climb on Saturday as the Panthers took on undefeated and second-ranked Marion in the substate final.
The Panthers, who were missing multiple starters due to personal reasons and scheduling conflicts, fell 4-0 to the Indians, falling one game short of the state tournament for the second-straight week.
The shorthanded Panthers had just about everyone back on defense to try and slow down Marion?s high-powered offensive attack. The strategy worked for the most part in the first half, but the Indians did score one goal.
Marion star Jaffer Murphy scored off a corner kick with 11 minutes left. That was the only score for either team during the first 45 minutes, and the Panthers were down 1-0 at the break.
Payton Kelly nearly stunned the Indians to begin the second half. Kelly jumped in front of a clearout by the Marion keeper and the ball bounced loose in front of the Indian goal. The deflection was too far out of Kelly?s reach, however, and the Panthers couldn?t tie the game up.
Mt. Pleasant had to scramble to keep Marion?s offense at bay in the second half. Both Quenton Sims and David Blancas had to save the ball from rolling into the net during mad scrambles in the first 20 minutes of the half.
Bayron Lopez-Diaz had a shot to tie the game with 22:20 left, sending one high. Shortly after, Murphy made it 2-0, which essentially iced the game.
The Indians scored two more goals before the day was done, including the third by Murphy, which made it 3-0 with 7:31. After getting subbed in from keeper to forward late in the game, Rauenbuhler nearly ruined the shutout after stealing the ball from the Marion keeper, but the Panthers could never put one on the board.
?Marion is just a solid team,? head coach Neil Schmitz said after the game. ?They passed the ball and played the ball so well. And they?re so fast, faster than any team we?ve played all year.?
Coach Schmitz also looked forward to next season, saying the future is bright for Mt. Pleasant soccer.
?This is the second year in a row we?ve been here with a chance to go to the state tournament,? he said. ?I think next year will be three, and third time is a charm.?