Mt. Pleasant boys ready for 1st taste of playoff action
Mt. Pleasant coach Floyd Snyder has watched his playoff-bound team grow up before his eyes.
Although they missed out on their main goal of a section title, the Vikings (10-5-1, 7-4-1) have clinched a playoff spot for the first time in four years after placing third in Section 1-AA.
None of the players on the current roster has any playoff experience. Not surprisingly, Mt. Pleasant will face challenges in the first playoff game, its coach said, no matter what team it draws.
“Trying to overcome the nerves is the biggest thing,” Snyder said, “but once we overcome that, it's just soccer.”
Operating under the assumption that his squad will continue to do the unexpected, Snyder has high hopes that the Vikings will be able to compete.
“I think we definitely can win the play-in game, and depending on our first-round matchup, I really like our chances,” he said. “But there are a lot of teams in Class AA with a lot of skill and senior leadership.”
Mt. Pleasant hasn't had the same abundance of upperclassmen leadership, with Bruno Anys, William Groft, Gabriel Hartzler and Tyler Kolar being the only seniors on the roster. But this hasn't been a cause for doubt for Snyder.
“We're a younger team. We really have only two senior starters,” Snyder said. “We knew they were young, and sometimes younger players are inconsistent. But we knew if they played to their ability we'd be fine.”
The Vikings have been able to build around a core of reliable scorers. Between juniors Zackery Bednar, Zachary D'Amico and Alex Temple and sophomore Brandon Leeder, teams have had their work cut out for them, Snyder said. In their 4-0 win over Derry a week ago — their largest shutout win of the season — the four scorers netted a goal apiece.
“It's nice because you can't really focus on one player,” Snyder said, “because if you focus on one guy, the others step up and score.”
The team has basically flipped its record from last year, when it went 5-11 overall and 4-8 in Section 1-AA. The growth that happened last year paid dividends for the Vikings this season.
“Last season was a lot of figuring out how to play varsity soccer, and this season was just about being consistent,” Snyder said.
Consistency has certainly been a big reason for the Vikings' turnaround this year. Only one of their losses came by more than one goal — a 5-1 defeat to Section 1 champ Burrell on Sept. 17.
That loss was particularly costly as it ended up being the difference in the race for a section title. But that loss also served as a turning point. Mt. Pleasant is on a 7-2-1 run after Monday night's 3-2 nonsection win in the season finale at Hempfield.
“Our goal is to improve every match,” Snyder said, “and every time we step on the field to be a little bit better.”
Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.