Losing in a shootout is tough. Losing in a shootout to end your season is devastating.
Following an entire game and two overtimes in which neither team could turn one of many quality chances into a goal, Tuesday’s District semifinals between SEC rivals Pioneer and Saline headed to a shootout. And the result was devastating for the Pioneers.
Despite falling behind 1-0 after the first round of the shootout, Saline locked up the win when their fifth shooter scored to end the shootout and end Pioneer’s season in heartbreaking fashion.
“Yeah, it’s really a tough way to lose,” said Pioneer Coach Jon Sundermann. “All the work you do in preparing for the game and then during the game only to have it come down to penalty kicks is hard. But all the players and coaches understand that’s how it works. It’s just how it goes and we came up on the short end.”
Despite never kicking one onto the scoreboard, the Pioneers played a strong game against a very strong opponent. The Hornets won the SEC Red Division and had a win and draw against the Pioneers coming into the game.
Sundermann and the Pioneers knew the quality of the opponent on the other side of the pitch.
“It was a heavyweight fight and that’s what we expected,” Sundermann said. “It was a well-played match and there were opportunities for both teams to score. I thought we did enough where we could win the game.”
Sundermann also acknowledged how it was nice to play in front of fans. There were parents, friends, students and even a band in the stands at Saline. It was far from a packed house but it was certainly a noisy one.
Saline advances to Thursday’s championship game against Skyline. The Eagles knocked off Dexter 2-0 in the other semifinal game. The final is at 7 p.m. at Saline.
The Pioneers had a great season, finishing 11-3-1. They will lose 17 seniors off this roster and that group helped continue Pioneer’s climb to elite status.
“We lose a huge senior class, but we have a strong group coming up,” Sundermann said. “We had a very good JV team and have some quality players coming back. We should have more than 10 seniors on the roster again next year. We continue to build a nice program and are certainly headed in the right direction thanks to this senior class. They have a lot to be proud of.”