For Chris Pedroza and his Hastings girls soccer team, this latest trip to the state tournament starts with one.
One win. A victory would be the first in program history. The Tigers are 0-7 at state with first-round exits each of the last five seasons.
One goal. In each of its previous appearances, Hastings has been shut out. It has been outscored 23-0.
“At the beginning of the season, as a team we got together and laid out some goals,” Pedroza said. “Those were definitely two of our goals.”
And they’re two goals within reach for Class B’s seventh-ranked Tigers, who open against No. 10 Platteview Thursday at 8 p.m. at Creighton’s Morrison Stadium.
For the first time in any of its state trips, Hastings is the higher seed. Behind its 14-3 record, the Tigers earned the No. 3 seed.
In five of the seven seasons that Hastings made it to state, its first game came against a team that eventually played for the title. Three of those times it was against the eventual champion, including 2009 and 2011 against Omaha Skutt.
“Being the third seed at the state tournament definitely makes a difference,” Pedroza said. “When you always end up playing the best team in Class B, it makes it very, very difficult. This year is a little bit different. I believe we have a pretty good draw this year.”
Despite landing in the No. 8 seed last year, Hastings was competitive in a 2-0 loss to Skutt.
“I think we kind of showed people it doesn’t really matter what seed you are,” senior defender Jessey Petersen said.
The 14 wins are a school record. But Pedroza knows that things are about to get much tougher. Despite a schedule that had nine games against Class A competition, only one team that the Tigers played this season reached the state tournament.
Only one Class B foe since their season opener finished with a winning record. Hastings hung on for a 4-3 win in the district final against Beatrice.
The Tigers lost four seniors to graduation, including forward Ashtin Pawloski, who scored 21 of the team’s 48 goals last season.
“We lost four really influential seniors,” Petersen said. “Those are four really big spots that we needed to fill. I think we’ve responded pretty well actually.”
Pedroza thinks Hastings’ defensive play will be the key to its success at state.
“Defensively we’ve got to be ready,” he said. “We can’t have any breakdowns on our defense. And it’s a different environment, the stadium, the crowd. We’ll have to handle that.”
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