For the Manhattan High girls’ soccer team under second-year coach Mike Sanchez, maintaining a level of excellence is the primary goal this season.
After inheriting the team from former coach Brett Nelson, Sanchez led the Indians back to the Class 6A quarterfinals where they fell to Wichita Northwest 1-0 at Anneberg Park.
Sanchez hopes a tough regular-season schedule will help get the Indians back to state.
“Expectations are still the same,” Sanchez said. “We’ll take it game by game, but we’d like to make it to state and make an impact once we get there. I think our schedule helps us out. Our tough games aren’t just in the Centennial League, they’re actually out against Blue Valley West, Blue Valley Stilwell, so we’ll have tough games outside of our regular Centennial League games.”
Returning most of last year’s starters will be a step in the right direction. They will have to forge ahead without senior goalkeeper Kristen Thompson. The senior, who was first-team all-state in 6A last year along with Bailey Snyder, is signed to play at Fort Hays State next year, but needs surgery on her shoulder.
“She has surgery next week,” Sanchez said. “But I think Molly Fiser will be step in and she’ll do a great job in there.”
The Indians have five other players already signed to play in college, with Kayla Faust, Courtney Payne and Willie Stockton all going to McPherson College, while Snyder and Jennifer Then will join Thompson at Fort Hays State.
Sanchez said it’s still early in the process to determine what the team’s biggest potential weaknesses might be, but he knows depth will be a strength.
“With the girls we have coming back, and the girls coming up, we should have a tremendous amount of depth, which we didn’t have last year,” he said. “This year, we can sub, we can switch the lineup, which is a nice thing.”
The Indians open their season Thursday with a home match against Topeka High at 6:15 at Anneberg Park. After that, the team will take a week off from competition, as will the rest of Manhattan High’s spring sports, during spring break. Then, Manhattan gets right back on the horse with a game against Wichita Trinity at home the following Monday.
“Ideally for me, I’d love if we had a tournament so we could knock out three games in a week,” he said. “I know last year we had a game the Saturday coming back from spring break, which is tough because you have kids on vacations and seniors that will be out that week. This year, we play Monday that following week, so it’s tough.”
Sanchez said he expects junior Emma Samenus to be solid for the Manhattan, as well as the only freshman on the varsity roster, Maddie Taylor.
“She’s the one person to really watch out for that wasn’t a part of our team last year,” he said. “Emma Samenus, she’ll be a dynamic player for us up top. All around, we have a great group of players. We have plenty to be excited about, and the girls are definitely excited to get started.”