After capturing 4 section titles, Plum seniors cap high school careers in PIAA playoffs

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Sunday, November 13, 2022 | 11:01 AM


For the first time in 17 years, the Plum varsity boys soccer team played in a PIAA tournament game.

Mustangs coach Raf Kolankowski said his players gave great effort against District 10 champion Cathedral Prep, but the homestanding Ramblers made enough plays to defeat Plum, 2-0, in the PIAA Class 3A first-round matchup Nov. 8.

“I thought we played well overall,” Kolankowski said. “Cathedral Prep is a big and physical team. We had to adjust a little bit in the first half to that. It was a pretty even game. The teams were evenly matched. It’s just that the bounces didn’t go our way. Credit to them as they did what they needed to do to win. It was 2-0, but it was a closer game than that.

“We showed that we could hang with the big boys. But we are still just a little bit away from getting over the hump, I guess you could say.”

Cathedral Prep managed just two shots on the Plum defense, but the Ramblers converted both of them for scores. The second goal that iced the victory came toward the end of regulation.

Plum had one shot on goal — senior Ethan Rose with just under 10 minutes left on the second-half clock — with several other shot attempts missing just high or wide of the Prep goal.

“Their goalie made a really nice save on Rose’s shot,” Kolankowski said.

“It would’ve made it 2-1. We just couldn’t get anything else concrete where their goalie had to make saves.”

Kolankowski said that as disappointing as it was to have the season end in the first round of the state playoffs, the season overall was a big success.

“There were 28 or 29 other teams in triple-A who wish they were where we got to with qualifying for states,” he said.

“The boys represented Plum well all season long, including the playoffs.”

A Plum boys soccer team qualified for the PIAA tournament for the first time since the 2005 squad captured the WPIAL Class AAA championship and advanced to the state semifinals before falling to District 1’s West Chester Henderson.

“I don’t think many of the players were even born the last time Plum made the state playoffs,” Kolankowski said.

The Mustangs were able to break through after a few frustrating outcomes in the WPIAL tournament the past couple of seasons, including last year’s penalty-kick loss to rival Franklin Regional in the third-place consolation game.

Plum found itself again in the WPIAL third-place game with a trip to states on the line Nov. 2, just two days after a tough 2-1 loss to Ambridge in the semifinals.

The Mustangs scored twice in the first half as senior forward Lucas Pittman and sophomore midfielder Aldi Flowers found the net in a 2-1 win over Montour. Junior forward Tristan Ralph assisted on both scores before the Spartans tallied a score in the second half.

Junior Owen Zalewski got the win in net for Plum.

“The kids were really excited,” Kolankowski said.

“They were pretty disappointed after the loss to Ambridge in the semis. I wasn’t sure how they were going to react in the third-place game with a pretty quick turnaround two days later. But they played really well, played with a lot of energy and motivation, and controlled the game for the most part. It got a little close at the end, but it was a nice victory. The boys, especially the seniors, worked hard for it and deserved the win.”

Plum capped its season at 19-3-1, and the 2022 run included another section championship. The Section 4 title shared with Franklin Regional — both finished 13-1 — was the seniors’ fourth consecutive section crown.

Lucas Pittman led Plum with 19 goals to go along with 12 assists and was named the Section 4 Player of the Year.

Fellow senior TJ Schrecongost, a midfielder, added 17 goals and 11 assists and was a Section 4 Finest 15 selection along with Flowers (13 goals, 10 assists), Ralph (16 goals, 14 assists), senior defender Colin McKinley and senior midfielder Ben Pittman (six goals, 10 assists).

Rose, a defender, was an honorable-mention pick.

Kolankowski was selected as the Section 4 Coach of the Year.

The senior group, which also included Nathan Morrill, Nathaniel Yohman and Alex Taylor, experienced a four-year run with a record of 65-10-4.

“They are the only senior group which has won four section titles in the history of the program,” Kolankowski said.

“This year, they came in focused and fired up and ready to lead the team. We had a great summer of training, and they were ready to do extra stuff. That is a great sign of strong leadership. They all have a great work ethic, and that will make them successful down the road.”

Kolankowski said he’s excited to see what kind of team will develop heading into next season.

“Tristan and Aldi will be key players coming back along with Owen who had a really strong year, and I know others will be ready to increase their roles or step up into varsity positions,” he said. “We want to definitely keep this going.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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