SERENA — As the sun set behind Serena High School and the long shadows loomed over the soccer pitch, the Coalers knew that it was getting late. Considering it was a regional match against Roanoke-Benson and the team was trailing by a goal inside the final 10 minutes, the season was also at hand.
Though Coal City would ultimately fall 2-0 to the Rockets, it's not unreasonable to think that the last 10 minutes of the season was amongst the best spans of the season for the Coalers.
Zack Pierard had three shots in the last 10 minutes — two on goal — as the Coalers pushed up in order to tie the game at 1-1. Fellow senior Tony Norris had a header that was saved in the same span.
"For the seniors, it was the last time we would play together, and we wanted the win," Pierard said.
On the back end of the offensive assault was junior keeper Chase Mincey, who had to make four saves to keep the score there before R-B literally scored as time expired to account for the 2-0 final.
The last goal was inconsequential. It was the goal by Rocket sophomore midfielder Luke Rasmuson off an assist from senior Ryan Kennell in the 54th minute.
"I over-anticipated on that one, thinking I could sprint out to the ball. I ran up and then hesitated when I should have committed," Mincey said. "That left the right side open."
Mincey ended with 15 saves in the contest.
"I think it's a credit to their offense," Mincey said. "I feel that we always have a good game plan. Even though we may have played down to their level, I still have faith in our defense."
Even Pierard admitted that the Coalers may have overlooked R-B on Wednesday.
"I think we came in expecting them not to be as competitive as they were," he said. "We played down to their level. It's a little disappointing. We thought coming in that we could have won a regional."
Coal City ends the season at 3-17.
"It seemed like they (Rockets) played better than we did in the first 10 minutes of each half, but then they got into boot-ball mode," Coal City coach Branden Petersen said. "I thought after the first 10 minutes, the action went back and forth. For the last 30 minutes of each half, I thought we were equals."
Coal City will now graduate five seniors in Billy Fatigante, Charles Frese, Norris, Pierard and Andrew VanCura.
"That is a talented group of seniors. It's sad for them that this is the way it ended. I thought they played great soccer at the end of the year. Tony Norris and Zack Pierard are two of the best players I have ever coached.
"That's just the way this season has been. Nothing fell our way. Yet throughout the year I never heard anyone on the team getting down or playing the blame game. This team worked well together all year and I am proud of them."