With junior Amanda Wallin creating goals and coach Daniel Rich calling the shots on the sideline, the Pine Tree Lady Pirates experienced one of their best seasons, going undefeated in District 32-4A and reaching the Class 4A Region II semifinals.
Wallin poured in 43 goals and 23 assists while Rich led the Lady Pirates to a 21-4-1 record.
The duo was named the Tyler Morning Telegraph’s Player and Coach of the Year.
Wallin, who was the 2010 Newcomer of the Year, follows Whitehouse’s Chestley Strother as Player of the Year. She said she was honored to receive the award.
“I felt like I’ve worked really hard for this and it’s just a good reward to get and I’m just really proud and thankful,” Wallin said.
Rich has coached at Pine Tree for 12 years and won the award for the first time, following Brad Jones of Whitehouse as the Coach of the Year.
“It’s one of those blessed years that’s hard to duplicate,” Rich said.
Pine Tree began the season with some question marks on defense but knowing it had a go-to goal scorer in Wallin.
Wallin did her part, setting the school single-season record for goals while also already breaking the program’s career marks for goals (96) and assists (61).
“This is my best season yet,” said Wallin, who didn’t play forward until high school. “I think these years I’ve just gotten better and better at offense. I’ve learned what kind of plays to make and I’ve become really good at scoring goals and assisting and just learning how the offense works.”
Wallin wasn’t alone, noting her teammates as pivotal to her success and that of the team as a whole. When Wallin, Hannah Robey and Lauren Cude were clicking, Pine Tree was tough to stop, Rich said.
“This year I’ve had the best team that I’ve ever had,” Wallin said. “I couldn’t have done any of this or achieved any awards without the awesome team that backs me up because I’m not good enough as a single person to achieve all this. I have to have the players that are super talented as well that are right behind me.”
Rich said the Lady Pirates’ success was a byproduct of their attitude and desire to be good on and off the field.
“We had a quality striker in Amanda Wallin — that always helps any team,” Rich said. “Overall the rest of the girls were just solid in every position and I was very honored to be a part of such a great group of girls that could play and had great attitudes.”
The Lady Pirates defense was a work in progress, Rich said, but came together at the right time, with four straight shutouts in the playoffs.
Pine Tree employed a 4-3-3 with flat back four and a diamond midfield. Wallin spear-headed the pressing forwards.
“We put a lot of pressure on people,” Wallin said. “A lot of times I felt our offense was kind of our defense because of how much we kept other teams under pressure.”
Although the Lady Pirates fell short in the regional semis to eventual state champion Highland Park, they have reason to be excited about next year. Pine Tree will return seven starters and 10 varsity players while also having the luxury to call up players from an undefeated junior varsity squad.
“I feel like our offense is going to be intact and our defense is full returning so I don’t have to figure out how to replace them,” Rich said. “I’m excited about next year and hopefully we’ll give Highland Park a run.”