Plum boys soccer team ready to make history

Friday, October 11, 2019 | 5:28 PM

Plum boys soccer captains Cole Kelly, Luke Gildea and Tyler Kolankowski are well versed in the history of the program.

They know it has been 14 years since the last playoff win, and it happened to be the year the Mustangs won the WPIAL title.

There are plenty of reminders spread throughout the school of how special that 2005 season was.

“We see it every day,” Kelly said. “They have the trophy upstairs in the trophy case. There’s the banner in the gym and there’s newspaper articles about the team in the lobby.”

The three captains were kindergartners when Plum won that championship, and now, along with the rest of their teammates, they’ll try to write their own chapter in the history books.

And they’re in the best position to do that since the ’05 team.

Plum (15-0-1, 13-0-1) capped off an undefeated Section 3-AAAA season with an 8-0 win over Penn Hills last Thursday night, winning its first section championship since ’05.

The Mustangs can complete an undefeated regular season with a win over Allderdice on Monday. They’ll likely be the top seed when the playoff brackets are released on Wednesday.

“We had high expectations before the season, but I don’t think any of us thought we’d still be undefeated at this point,” Kolankowski said. “To be doing as well as we are doing this year feels really nice.”

The amazement of the regular season results is not lost on any of the captains.

“It’s kind of a surreal feeling,” Gildea said. “Even looking at Twitter and seeing our record pop up and Plum beside it is pretty crazy. It’s like, ‘I play on that team.’ It feels great.”

The focus now turns to breaking the postseason drought. Plum has been in the playoffs each of the last three years and has accrued some battle scars from first-round exits.

Last season, the Mustangs lost 5-2 to Pine-Richland. Two years ago was the most gut-wrenching loss of all, a 2-1 OT setback at home to Upper St. Clair that ended with a controversial referee’s decision. Three years ago, they were defeated 1-0 by Canon McMillan.

“We’ve lived through all three years of our playoff failures and that builds character for sure,” Kelly said. “We know what we need to do going into playoffs.”

The Upper St. Clair game, though it was two years ago, is the freshest in their memories. Kelly was standing on the sidelines, ready to check in after going out briefly with an injury, when the game-winning goal was scored with several Panthers standing in an offside position on the play.

Gildea can still picture the play and is using it as a motivator going forward.

“It was here, so when I look at that part of the field, sometimes I think, ‘Wow that happened right there,’” Gildea said. “We certainly haven’t forgotten about it.”

Beyond breaking the playoff streak, the goal is to win a championship. The stats show they are plenty capable to making a deep run.

Plum has seven shutouts, scored more than three goals in all but one game and tied and defeated defending WPIAL champion and section rival Norwin. Kolankowski and D.D. Flowers have 28 goals between them. Gildea has anchored a strong midfield, and Kelly leads a back line that has yielded less than two goals in all but two matches.

All the ingredients are there, and combined with the experiences of the past, the Mustangs look poised to make the most of their opportunity.

“The last three years prepped for where we are today,” Gildea said. “We’ve seen what the captains have done before us and their leadership. We’ve come together as a group and we’ve gone from there.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer


More High School Soccer Boys

WPIAL boys earn All-America, all-region, all-state soccer accolades
Balanced attack leads Seneca Valley to blowout win over Lower Merion in PIAA boys soccer final
Moravian Academy stops Winchester Thurston’s bid to repeat as PIAA Class A soccer champ
4 WPIAL teams set to play for PIAA soccer championships
High school roundup for Nov. 16, 2022: Seneca Valley, Winchester Thurston make state finals