Plum boys soccer is ready to push past postseason shortcomings

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Monday, October 21, 2019 | 8:04 PM


The Plum boys soccer team has enjoyed a storybook-type season heading into their WPIAL Class AAAA quarterfinal match with Upper St. Clair on Wednesday.

The Mustangs finished the regular season with a 15-0-2 record, captured the Section 3-AAAA championship and produced a goal differential of plus-47. It is the type of season the Mustangs have not had since 2005, when they won their lone WPIAL title and finished 22-2-1.

But since that season, Plum hasn’t won a first-round playoff game. The Mustangs have come close, appearing in the postseason seven of the last 13 years and have lost by one goal on four occasions. This year might be different.

Senior defender Cole Kelly, along with co-captains Tyler Kolankowski and Luke Gildea, lead a team that has been on the brink of a quarterfinal berth for the last two years. As sophomores, they finished the regular season with a record of 11-6-1 and received the No. 7 seed.

They played No. 10 seed Upper St. Clair in the first round, and the Panthers beat the Mustangs in a 2-1 overtime thriller that left a bad taste in Plum’s mouth.

“It was terrible. It was the most heartbreaking way for a season to end, especially with a home playoff game,” Kelly said.

That game also was the last time Plum held a higher seed over a playoff opponent until they drew the No. 1 seed last week.

“We’ve worked so hard for this,” Gildea said. “Tyler, Cole and I have made it to the playoffs each year and have lost in the first round, and that was tough. But it motivated us even more to come back out and play the way we have.”

On Wednesday, they will get the Panthers for the second time in three years. Plum coach Raf Kolankowski said Upper St. Clair is a good team with speed that plays physical. For the players who were on that team two years ago, their game Wednesday, in front of a home crowd, has a different type of feeling.

“This is a big revenge game for us,” Gildea said.

Throughout this season, the Mustangs have been getting production from their entire lineup. Kolankowski leads the team in goals (20) and assists (12). Junior forward D.D. Flowers has scored 14 goals, and AJ Koma is third on the team with 11.

The younger Kolankowski brother, Luke, a sophomore who plays central midfield, has distributed the ball well, tallying 11 assists and one goal.

When it comes to the playoffs, the Mustangs have been their own worst enemy in the past. On Wednesday, they believe they have the perfect opportunity to overcome their downfalls and punch their ticket to the semifinals.

“I think this is a good place for us to be,” Kelly said. “In my opinion, I think we should have been at this stage for the past three years because we’ve had the talent and we’ve had the coaching, no question. I just think we’ve gotten into our own heads a little bit, and I think that’s our most dangerous thing. I think we just need to play our game and if we can do that we’ll be good. We just need to get this first game under our belt.”

Greg Macafee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Greg by email at gmacafee@tribweb.com or via Twitter .

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