Al Iantorno found it hard to hide his disappointment. The Pleasant Hill girls soccer coach had watched his team make a brilliant run to the state tournament only to stumble once it got there.
Could the Chicks overcome the discouraging loss and rally the next day playing for third place? Or would they lay another egg?
Turns out Iantorno had nothing to fear.
Pleasant Hill bounced back nicely and ended its first-ever appearance in the Class 2 girls state soccer tournament May 31 with a 2-0 victory over St. Pius X in the consolation game at Swope Soccer Village. The victory capped an 18-9 season, and made Iantorno and the Chicks feel much better about their state run.
“I was concerned after (the loss in semifinals) we would be down and not play well,” Iantorno said. “But they surprised me, to be honest. They just came out playing and they played well.”
Pleasant Hill had little time to put aside the pain from its 3-1 loss to Christian in the semifinals May 30. Christian, which went on to win the championship, scored first on a rebound off a free kick that bounced off Chicks goalie Jordan Hoerl’s hands two minutes into the match.
Mackenzie Dimarco equalized with a goal late in the first half, but Christian struck for two more in the second half as the Chicks struggled to find scoring opportunities.
“For some weird reason, things didn’t go our way,” Iantorno said. “Nothing jelled we gave up a goal in the first five minutes and they just chased the game. It was just a weird game.
“But today everybody played well. I thought everybody was on track.”
Pleasant Hill senior midfielder Autumn Ferguson said were ready to play the next day because the Chicks realized they still had something to play for.
“We definitely wanted to come out and this game still meant something to us,” Ferguson said. “It’s our first time at state, we’re making history. We didn’t to go in and get fourth place, we wanted to earn third place.”
Pleasant Hill earned it with goals in the first and second half against St. Pius X (19-6-1). Haley Comegys scored the first one in the 37th minute when she took a cross from Dimarco from the right side and hit it one time into the left side of the net.
In the 63rd minute, Dimarco touched the ball around a defender just past midfield, outraced defense and took a shot. Pius’ goalie made the save, but the ball got away and Dimarco beat out a couple of defenders to put it in.
Hoerl made five saves for the shutout, which she shared when Chloey Schorr came in during the final minute.
“Whenever we get a goal and get ahead, it’s just like, oh we can do this, we can get more goals,” said Dimarco, who finished her junior season with 76 goals and nine assists. “We keep our heads held high and it just makes a big difference.”
Iantorno said he could tell right away the Chicks were going to be fine.
“About 10-15 minutes into the game I knew they were going to play today,” Iantorno said. “There was a different look to it, different feel to it, they were doing different things. They were looking for each other, they were making the right passes, they were stopping their attacks … they did a good job.”
With all but four seniors returning next year, Iantorno is optimistic about making another state tournament run. That would mark another progression in a program that finished 5-11 back in 2013.
Ferguson can appreciate how far they’ve come.
“From my freshman year first time winning districts and making history going to state … it’s been awesome,” Ferguson said. “I’m excited to end the season like this.”