The Pleasanton Eagles women’s soccer team had to fight through 100 minutes and then some on Friday to keep their playoff streak alive.
The Eagles (14-9-1) beat Beeville Jones 3-1 in a shootout after the teams maintained a scoreless draw for 80 minutes of regulation and 20 of extra time. The win sent Pleasanton through to the area round of playoffs for the 13th straight year, excluding 2020 due to the pandemic shutdown.
Pleasanton had experience with shootouts earlier in the season with a win over Wimberley in the Battle in the Brush Country tournament. That made them feel relaxed on Friday night.
“I had confidence in the shootout for the main reason because, as we were discussing everything before those spot kicks, the mood of the team was very relaxed,” Head Coach Brant Bird said. “I worked really hard to make sure the girls didn’t think about what they were doing as opposed to what they were doing it for.”
Senior goalkeeper Syndey Merecka delivered a sterling performance in the win, posting 10 saves between regulation and extra time, as well as stopping two Beeville penalties in the shootout.
Merecka knew she was going to have to play one of her best games in order to keep Pleasanton’s season going. The Eagles and Trojans split a pair of matches at the Battle in the Brush Country.
“[I knew] just as much, if not more than any other game,” Merecka said. “These games now, it’s win or go home. As a senior, that’s something — like it’s the end. There’s no more. If I don’t put it all on the field, there’s always going to be that what if.”
The Eagles were able to scout Beeville during the Trojans’ seeding game on Tuesday. They got to see Jacey Taylor take a penalty in that game. Taylor went to the same spot Friday as she did Tuesday and Merecka read it the whole way on the very first kick.
“Seeing that [Taylor] was going to be the first one, we had a strategy against her,” Merecka said. “Blocking that first one and using that strategy, it was reassuring that … we’re good.”
Renata Osorio, Kaitlyn Garcia and Sofia Rivera each converted their tries from the spot. Osorio was the first to go for Pleasanton and it set the Eagles’ confidence sky-high.
“It means everything to me because, every single time I play, I play for my teammates,” Osorio said. “So, walking up there to take the first shot, my heart was going out to them and everything I do is for them.”
Pleasanton couldn’t get much offense going in the scoreless game. The Trojans outshot the Eagles 11-8.
As extra time began to wane and both teams’ fitness began to be taxed, Bird and assistant coach Wesley Joseph felt comfortable playing for the shootout.
“I made some defensive subs in the second half of overtime. I could see some legs were getting heavy,” Bird said. “Our attack was kind of stagnant all night long, but especially there towards the end of the first half of overtime. So, talking with coach Joseph, we decided to roll the dice and take our chances in the shootout.”
Pleasanton knew they had a good chance in the shootout because of their senior goalkeeper. Merecka rewarded that faith with her two saves in the shootout.
“I had all the confidence in the world in [Merecka],” Osorio said. “As much confidence as I have in myself, I have in my teammates.”
Pleasanton will face either Austin Gateway College Prep or Canyon Lake in the area round of playoffs.