BLOOMINGDALE — Ever since last season ended with heartbreak in the region quarterfinals, Plant has been learning how to close out tight games.
The top-seeded Panthers won their second straight district title Friday, beating host and second-seeded Bloomingdale 1-0 in the 6A-8 championship game.
Last year, their season ended with a 3-2 loss to East Lake, a game the Panthers couldn't preserve late. And Plant coach Stephen McGill pointed to Friday's win as the latest chapter of a season-long lesson learned.
"We learned that we're going to play until the final whistle and we're going to play smarter in the last 10 minutes," McGill said. "Against East Lake, we gave them the opportunities. We patty-caked it up to them last year.
"We didn't give up any opportunities tonight in the last 25 minutes. …That's a testimony to how far we've come from last year to now."
In the fourth minute, Plant midfielder Abby Meckley scored on a perfect pass from forward Connor Zwetsch.
"I knew it was going to be a hard game from the start," Meckley said. "We needed this game."
From then on, the Plant defense took over, never letting Bloomingdale get an open look at the net.
"We made a mistake in the first five minutes and that was the game," Bulls coach Sue Peet said.
Plant (20-1-1) hosts Countryside in the region quarterfinals Thursday. "The season starts now," McGill said. "They were happy to win, but you didn't see a big pile or a lot of tackling like you did the first one. This team realizes it has a chance to go much further than this. They want to go far. This is Step 1."