Seven years ago, Plumstead Christian’s soccer team advanced to the PIAA final four.
The 2021 Panthers may not repeat that feat, but a much improved PCS side could make a lot of noise when the District One A tournament starts on Oct. 26.
“The goal is to make sure we’re in the mix,” PCS coach Michael Price shared. “We’d love a bye but we’ll take getting in. We’re pretty confident that we can compete with anybody … whoever we face in districts if we can get there.”
The Panthers were 9-3-2, ranked No. 4 in the district, at press time. Two of their three losses were to the last two Class A state champions.
Plumstead showcased that improvement in a 2-0 loss at defending state champion Faith Christian last month. “It was actually one of the most fun high school games that I’ve ever been a part of,” Price offered. “The atmosphere was great. The boys were just committed. It was competitive all the way around. We had two unlucky breakdowns that led to two goals but we lost to them by a combined 8-1 last year.”
Last season, the Panthers were outscored 31-13 as they struggled to a 3-6-2 mark. PCS had outscored opponents 61-18 through the first 11 matches of this season.
There could have been a let down in Plumstead’s next match against Delco Christian, the second team in Class A to reach 10 wins, but Plumstead answered the bell in a 1-1 draw. “We reenforced that message that you can compete with anybody,” Price reflected.
Plumstead benefited from numbers this season; they are fielding a strong JV team for the first time in years. “We’re getting some of our JV players on the field and they are playing at the skill level we want them to,” Price noted. “It’s been great to see the collective effort of the entire team from our starters down to our JV players.”
If Penn State has “We Are,” then Plumstead has “the Brotherhood.” “I’ve tried to articulate to them the lasting strength that can come from a Brotherhood,” explained Price, a Navy veteran. “You might have friends but you won’t have brothers. When you look across to the guy next to you on the field, that means you are willing to do anything for them. We’re seeing upperclassmen absolutely support the younger guys when they get out on the field, when they’re in school.”
An embodiment of the Brotherhood is co-captain and midfielder Micah Bell, who has turned in an impressive season despite suffering from a severe rhematic condition.
“He is the epitome of heart and desire and effort,” Price praised. “I thought I had to manage to help him control his pain. He told me one day, ‘Coach, you don’t have to take me off. I’m still in pain.’ But when you watch him play, you would never know because he gives such a tremendous effort.” The Panthers have responded to efforts like Bell’s, and it will land them a seed in districts.
For the girls, fellow Bicentennial League side Faith Christian is also looking to make a lot of noise in districts. The Lions, seeded No. 1 in Class A at press time, were unbeaten and untied in their first 13 games.
Winning districts would punch Faith’s ticket to states for the first time. “The talent has been there. What has really drawn it out is our chemistry on and off the field,” believes head coach Kailey Neef. “They are truly a family off the field, which has made a huge impact on the field in how they play, how they have each other’s backs and don’t give up.”
Their resume includes two wins where Faith punched significantly above their weight – a 4-3 defeat of 4A Ridley – where the Lions dug an early hole and rallied and a 6-0 pasting of 3A Saucon Valley. Both larger schools will make their playoffs.
“It shows what we are capable of,” Neef stated. “Down 2-0 in the first 10 minutes of the game, I was curious how they were going to turn after that. They took it upon themselves to fight and show what we were made of. Going down didn’t discourage us. It challenges us to get back on it.”
Faith has allowed just four goals all season to Class A opponents. “A big thing has been my centerbacks know my expectations for them. We try and let them be the coaches on the field,” explained assistant coach Melanie Bair. “We want to try and let those girls take what we taught them in practice and previous games and be able to learn from any mistakes in the past. Our goalie is very vocal and sets the tone too. She is pointing out players who are open or who we need to watch.”
The Lions had a solid 8-3 campaign last season but were upset in the district semifinals. Second-year coach Neef, a former starter at Division 1 Liberty, and Bair can use that as a teaching moment.
“Last year, we were a good team but it didn’t end the way we hoped it would,” Bair continued. “We were proud of how the season ended even though we would like to have gone farther. This year, with Kailey, the girls and I having a season under our belts, we have something we want to prove this year.”
The District One Class A playoffs also begin for girls on Oct. 26. The top two seeded boys teams earn a first-round bye.