Plum boys soccer riding 11-game winning streak heading into WPIAL playoffs

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Friday, October 23, 2020 | 1:46 PM


For the second straight year, the Plum boys soccer team is playing its best soccer when it matters most.

It has put them in a good position heading into the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.

When the boys soccer brackets were revealed Wednesday, the Mustangs (13-1) drew the No. 4 seed and will take on No. 13 South Fayette (9-4-1) in the first round of the Class 3A playoffs at noon Saturday at Plum.

“I think we got a very tough draw for the first game, and that’s just the way it works out,” Plum coach Raf Kolankowski said. “They (South Fayette) were the fourth placed team in their section but they were a game or two away from second, and they were tied for third. Definitely a tough first game, but it’s the playoffs and you gotta play. That’s just the way it is.”

The Mustangs were red hot at the end of the regular season. Since losing to No. 2 Franklin Regional — who they split the Section 4 title with — on Sept. 21, the Mustangs have rattled off an 11-game winning streak. That run included a 2-1 win over the Panthers on Sept. 28.

That’s not the only thing their winning streak included though. They recorded eight clean sheets, with a seven-game shutout streak from Sept. 30 to Oct. 17, and they’ve also only allowed four goals since Sept. 22.

Goalkeeper Gabe Kuhn has been a big factor in their defensive success. In 840 minutes between the pipes, Kuhn has made 30 saves and allowed just seven goals, four of which came against Franklin Regional.

“After the four goals against Franklin Regional, at least in my mind, I was devastated,” Kuhn said. “I wanted my numbers to be low this year, and I just had one thing on my mind and that was not to get scored on.”

Since that game, the Mustangs defense has been on point. Their seven-game shutout streak was ended by an early goal by Obama Academy in their regular season finale that they won 8-1. Kuhn said the defensive success they’ve had lately is because of the communication with his defenders, among other things.

“We usually have to run (at practice) when we get scored on, so we weren’t really having that,” Kuhn said with a laugh. “I just had to bring my backs together and connect with my feet more and fix a few mental mistakes. But we’ve cleaned those up and have been pretty solid recently.”

The Mustangs haven’t just been solid defensively. They’ve scored 46 goals during their 11-game winning streak and have scored three or more goals in eight of those games. They’ve been led up front by a trio of seniors in AJ Koma, Cannon Kuchinick and DD Flowers. The trio has combined for 35 goals and 19 assists.

“We’ve been playing pretty well,” Flowers said. “We’ve been rotating to see what we can do better and what we want to do less of. We’ve just been trying to get the ball to us and see what we can do.”

At this point last season, the Mustangs were undefeated with a record of 15-0-2 and earned the No. 1 seed in the Class 4A bracket. They had a WPIAL title on their mind, but the Mustangs fell to eventual WPIAL champion Canon-McMillan, 3-2, in the semifinals.

That loss stung for the seniors, and the players who were set to return this season used it as motivation.

“This is my last go at it, and I feel like we have to win it,” Kuhn said. “After last year, we got a taste of what it was like to win, going undefeated, and to not finish it was really hard for all of us. Hopefully, this year we’ll be able to complete it, and I think we have a little chip on our shoulder. We have to get it done.”

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

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