Dr. Phillips boys soccer books first regional playoff appearance since 2006 | Observer Preps
The Panthers' 2-1 victory over Evans in the Class 5A, District 4 Semifinals earned Dr. Phillips a place in Friday's district final — and the regional playoffs, ending a 12-year drought.
| 8:18 a.m. February 1, 2018
A free kick from junior Matt Clark helped end more than a decade of district tournament frustration for the Dr. Phillips boys soccer program.
The free kick-turned-goal by Clark in the 65th minute gave the Panthers (13-6-2) a 2-1 advantage that they would not relinquish and would become the final score in the semifinals of the Class 5A, District 4 Tournament against Evans at Olympia High January 31.
The victory sends Dr. Phillips to Friday's district final — and to the regional playoffs for the first time since 2006.
"I couldn’t be prouder," head coach Joel Dobrowolski said. "This group of seniors, they didn't want the season to be over. They went down 10 minutes into the half and tied it up before halftime."
The Panthers did indeed go down just minutes into the game, but the veteran squad — there are 11 seniors dressing for each game — refused to hang its head. Instead, one of those seniors — Juan Sebastian Rodriguez — scored the first goal of his varsity career just before halftime to knot the game at 1-1.
Then, after the defensive battled with the Trojans raged on for most of the second half, Clark got his free kick opportunity — something the Panthers had worked on in practice just a day earlier.
"Yesterday, in training, we practiced that free kick, and (Clark) goes 'Coach, I'm going to hit it on the outside with my right,’” Dobrowolski recalled. "He made it — game winner. He'll never let us forget it."
Dobrowolski was the head coach for the Panthers the last time Dr. Phillips made it to the regional playoffs, and it has taken him and the program nine seasons to get back (he coached the girls soccer team for two seasons and also took a year off during the 12-year stretch).
“We’re happy to be in the (district) final, happy to be in a regional match and to extend our season. There are plenty of good teams sitting at home tonight."
The Panthers will face rival Olympia, which shutout West Orange 4-0 in its semifinal game, at 7 p.m. Friday in the Class 5A, District 4 Championship.
“We’re happy to be in the (district) final, happy to be in a regional match and to extend our season," Dobrowolski said. "There are plenty of good teams sitting at home tonight."