As a player, Janessa Taddei helped Plant’s girls soccer team reach the playoffs plenty of time in her high school career.
But she never appeared in a state championship match.
Taddei went on to play at Florida International before returning to her alma mater to take over the Panthers’ boys program into 2016. She turned around a struggling program, guiding the boys to impressive records.
Still, no state title appearance.
This season, it finally happened.
No more bad bounces. No more stumbling in tough matchups. Plant’s boys put it all together to advance to Saturday’s Class 7A state final. It marked the first time a soccer team from the school — boys or girls — made it this far.
The only thing this run did not produce was a state title. After going through a scoreless tie in regulation, the Panthers allowed a goal in the first overtime and were unable to rally in a 1-0 loss.
The outcome did not diminish what was accomplished.
After all, Plant ended years of frustration just to be on high school soccer’s biggest stage.
The matchup against Naples Gulf Coast was even. Both teams entered as the top two teams in 7A (the Panthers were No. 2 and the Sharks were No. 1) according to MaxPreps.
That showed as they battled through regulation and two overtimes before determining a winner. Shots were thwarted in what was expected to be a defensive match.
Near the end of regulation, Plant was down to 10 players after Hayden Judge picked up a blue card.
No matter. The Panthers kept Naples Gulf Coast off the scoreboard to force overtime. This was exactly the low-scoring, tight contest Plant wanted considering it had won six straight matches that were decided by a goal.
In the first overtime, the Sharks’ Marcello Maffei got free down the right side and connected on a shot for the lead. The Panthers had two good looks in potential game-tying shots but both were turned away.