Girls soccer: Panthers kick their way onto map

Published January 9, 2008

TAMPA - Mention Plant athletics to those who follow local high school sports, and chances are the state championship football team from two seasons ago or the back-to-back volleyball state titles comes to mind.

Chelsea Hearne wants you to know there's more to the story.

"We're like the redheaded stepsister," she said, referring to the girls soccer team. "But we want to show people what we can do."

Matches like Tuesday night's will go a long way toward that.

Hearne's assists broke open a scoreless match and Plant tacked on a pair of late goals as the Panthers remained undefeated with a 3-0 win against visiting Wharton.

"I mean, we have an amazing football team and an unbelievable volleyball program," Hearne said. "We want to be looked at as a credible team, too."

Neither Plant (11-0-4) nor Wharton (8-6-1) had played a match in a few weeks, so Tuesday's first half got off to a sluggish start.

"You could tell there was rust on both sides," Plant coach Stephen McGill said. "There were some missed touches but I think we started to settle down in the second half."

And 68 minutes in, Hearne demonstrated she's more than just one of the area's best defenders. The 6-foot sweeper, who used to pitch in softball, uncorked a throw-in that traveled about 30 yards into the Wildcats' box. Molly Ganther got her head to it just in front of Wharton's keeper, flicking home the only goal the Panthers would need.

"(Hearne) is dangerous with those (throws)," McGill said. "Anytime you can get a ball that deep into the box from where she was at, good things are going to happen."

Then in the 74th minute Amanda Hendry, playing her first match since sustaining a leg fracture in mid-December, then settled a ball off a corner kick and blasted a shot to make it 2-0. Two minutes later, Brittany Randolph carried a run from midfield down the left flank, powering a ball to the far post for the Panthers' final strike.