By Zack Peterson
The Laker/Lutz News Correspondent
Never mind an entire season — one goal determined the Class 5A-District 7 tournament’s top seed.
Plant squeaked past Wharton 1-0 and claimed the No. 1 spot in January’s district tournament in a grueling, fast-paced girls soccer matchup Dec. 13.
“We played from 0 to 80 (minutes) hard,” said Wildcats coach Denis Vukorep. “But we gave them a 10-minute gap, and they scored on us.”
That lapse in defense came in the 31st minute when Jayne Hagan took a pass from Caroline Bado, skirted around the Wildcats’ (10-2-3) defense and lobbed the ball into the upper-right corner of the goal.
Vukorep said his team looked sluggish in the first half. They kept up with the Panthers (11-1-1), but they didn’t step to the ball, didn’t fight for as many passes and missed opportunities to form commanding drives.
Wharton powered downfield and played more aggressively in the second half, but couldn’t muster enough of a drive to score.
Vukorep said the problem was positioning. If everyone moved up field together, or “passed it up,” they might have been able to pressure Plant’s defense into making careless mistakes and score.
“Their strength is speed and our strength is speed. So we were neutralized,” Vukorep said.
Senior Leah Chisolm, a senior forward, noticed another issue — communication.
“I think we had too many touches and poor communication,” Chisolm said. “No one was saying, ‘Man on,’ and you didn’t have time because you would turn around and see people that you had no idea were there. … Overall it’s a good example of what to work on.”
Wharton’s final district game is against Alonso Dec. 18. Because of the defeat, they will either be the No. 2 or 3 seed in the district tournament.
Plant trampled Wharton 6-1 in the boys game in the second contest.
The Panthers struck first with a pair of goals late in the first half.
Wildcats (2-5-3) junior midfielder Philippe Patino responded with a goal into the left side of the net to start the second half.
But careless mistakes tore the Wildcats apart.
Senior Austin Hunt leaped up to deflect the ball on a Plant throw-in near Wharton’s goal, but his header flew over his own goalie’s head and landed in the net.
An unorganized defense let Plant’s Thomas Del Pino skate through virtually alone, and a penalty near the box gave the Panthers a free kick opportunity, which senior Luis Zapata capitalized on.
Sophomore Hugo Sandoval’s goal upped the score to 6-1.
Although Wharton coach Scott Ware was displeased with the result, he was happy that his players refused to give up despite the deficit.
“The biggest thing for us is finding the fire,” Ware said. “I was happy with the intensity. We haven’t had it all season.”
The Wildcats host Gaither Dec. 20 after closing out district play against Alonso. The girls play at 6 p.m., with the boys following at 8 p.m.
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