Story and photos by Chet Piotrowski Jr.
Five more minutes and the match might have ended differently.
Mattoon put two quick scores on the board, which they’ve been accustomed to four matches into the season. What they weren’t accustomed to was having to play their starters a full 80 minutes.
The Green Wave, outscoring their opponents 27-1 in their first four matches, had been able to give non-starters experience in order to develop depth.
Pleasant Plains challenged Mattoon in waves before scoring late in the second half but ran out of time as the Greenwave (5-0) defeated the Cardinals (6-2) 2-1 Tuesday afternoon for the St. Teresa tournament championship. The match had been rescheduled from March 18 due to weather.
“That’s the first game that we’ve had to play at a quicker pace,” Mattoon varsity girls soccer coach Ryan Ghere said. “Every game we’ve been so comfortable with the ball the entire time and have had lots of time to move and pass. Today, they were on our backs when we got it. We have to work on our pace of play.”
Overall, he said they played well considering the state of the team’s conditioning.
“We came out and played really, really well,” he said. “We moved the ball and had energy. I thought we played well the first half but then the second half, I don’t know. I’m glad the game didn’t have five more minutes because I don’t think we would have made it five more minutes.”
Sophomore midfielder Bella Masse scored 65 seconds into the match, then senior forward Piper Sanders added another Green Wave score seven minutes later on a breakaway.
Masse had potentially her second goal of the match in the 23rd minute, but was called back due to offsides.
Pleasant Plains made repeated counters, denying Mattoon the chance to set up and putting them on the defensive.
“We didn’t connect passes the second half,” he said. “ It was one pass then give it away, one pass and then give it away and play defense again. We need to have possession so we don’t have sit back and play defense the entire time.”
Depth is another challenge for MHS.
“We have to find some depth,” he said. “That’s the first game where the girls have played more than 35 minutes. I give them credit for battling. We were on our heels the whole second half but they found ways to clear the ball away. Jess (Evans) came up big and cleared one away with her feet. Lily Gregory had another where she cleared off the line. It was a total team effort.”
The state of the Green Wave conditioning couldn’t have been more clear than when forward Lily Ghere lost possession of the ball while dribbling toward Pleasant Plains goalkeeper Elle Walker. The senior fell to the ground pulling on her toes trying to stretch her calves with 25 seconds left.
Mattoon’s defense cleared the ball again, with just five seconds remaining, claiming its second consecutive championship over Pleasant Plains. They beat the Cardinals 3-1 last year.
“The last nine minutes my calves started cramping,” senior forward Lily Ghere said.
“I’m going to go drink some pickle juice. I don’t know. I hear that works. Pickle juice? Bananas? I’ll let you know if it works,” she said, laughing.
The Cardinals presented a speedy foe they haven’t seen yet this season.
“They had a really fast forward,” she said. “We haven’t had to face that yet this year. They beat our back line a little bit so we had to adjust to that because we hadn’t had to do that. We figured it out.”
I was definitely not ready for it. I think if we had more competition in previous games, we could’ve beaten them by more than we did.”
“A win is a win. It might not have been pretty but we did it,” she said.
Mattoon Bella Masse 1(Marley Van Hoveln) 1 2:00
Mattoon Piper Sanders 1 (Lily Ghere 1) 8:00
Pleasant Plains Kendall Sims 1