DECATUR — Mount Zion's Maggie Harder repelled one Pana attack after another.
It wasn't enough.
The Panthers just kept on coming and prevailed 2-0 over Mount Zion for their first ever St. Teresa Tournament championship on a cold and blustery Saturday afternoon.
It also snapped the Braves' streak of three consecutive titles in the process.
“We played them during indoor (season) and they were pretty rough then,” Pana sophomore Katelin Weideman said of Mount Zion. “They're a good team and they're aggressive. It was tough getting through them, but we were able to work together and we found open spots and got those goals off.”
The seasoned Panthers (3-0) wielded control of the ball throughout the match, but Harder always seemed to swoop in and clear the ball just in the nick of time until late in the first half.
Pana's Kameron Cole chased down a loose ball and centered it perfectly for senior teammate Daylee Denton.
Mount Zion goalie Tory Parkhurst tried to reach the ball first, but it was Denton who reeled in the ball and punched it through the net for the 1-0 lead with 11:40 left before halftime.
It was Denton's second goal of the season.
“I just saw an open net and I was like I just had to take this opportunity,” Denton said.
Pana continued to besiege the Braves (2-1) in the second half but lost several opportunities — probably none better than Josie Pauley's two close-range shots that went wide.
Pana unloaded 17 shots in the game and took nine corner kicks. Mount Zion only totaled three shots and took its only corner kick in the final three minutes of the game.
It wasn't until senior Savannah Weishaar sneaked in a tough goal inside the left post from about 15 yards out with 4:15 left in the match to win the championship game for the first time after settling with third place the past two years.
“We've only had our soccer program for like five years and we've only gotten to third place,” Katelin Weideman said. “It means a lot.”
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The Panthers, who won their first Class 1A regional title last year, do not appear to have a weakness anywhere on their roster.
Pana returns two of its top scorers — Denton and Katelin Weideman — and the supporting cast around them is just as productive.
“We're so used to working with each other,” Denton said. “We lost a few seniors last year, but we really work together.”
That includes the defense.
They didn't allow a single goal the entire tournament and swarmed all over Mount Zion's offense.
Sophomore Jeannine Swenny and seniors Colleen Weddle and Brooklyn Jewsbury make up the back row, along with senior goalie Emily Gatons.
“She does an excellent job,” Pana coach Mike Weideman said of Weddle. “She communicates well and tells them where to go. She's got a lot of speed and she just never gives up. Jeannine Swenny, she's like an Energizer bunny and never stops either. She won't tell you when she needs a break. All of that back line does a good job of communicating well with each other.”
Shake it off
Katelin Weideman suffered a knee injury late in the game and was helped off the field.
It didn't appear to be anything serious.
“I'll just rest on the weekend and I'll be back,” she said.
Don't get too cocky
Pana shut out Warrensburg-Latham, St. Teresa and Mount Zion in the tournament.
But it will need to brace for Warrensburg and Mount Zion — a pair of strong programs — again later this season.
In fact, Pana's next opponent is none other than Mount Zion on Tuesday, March 28 at home.
“That Mount Zion team is a well-coached team, a very good program and so is St. Teresa and Warrensburg-Latham,” coach Weideman said. “I'm not taking anything away from those teams. They played well. It was just our day each time we played. We'll face Mount Zion on the 28th, so they may get their revenge then. It just depends on what team shows up.”