Last season Manhattan High struggled to win closely matched, physical games.
The Indians have a long way to go in proving they’ve fixed that issue, but Friday night’s 1-0 win over Lawrence to open the season was a step in the right direction.
“They did a good job of not really allowing us to play,” MHS coach Frank Alonso said. “They were always in our face and putting a lot of pressure on us. So I’m pleased that we can win those type of games — those are the games we’ve struggled with in the past.”
Eric Gray scored the game’s only goal in the 22nd minute of the first half on an assist from Alex Dzewaltoski, giving the Indians (1-0) just enough offense to win the hard-fought match.
“It was a very intense, physical game,” Alonso said. “Kind of an ugly game, but it kind of fits with this rivalry. We’ve played them so many times and it’s always like this.”
The win gives the Indians a four-game win streak over their rivals to the east, while also helping the season get off on the right foot.
Alonso said the game could have gone either way. The Indians had five shots while Lawrence (0-1) finished with eight.
“We were lucky enough to get the win,” he said. “It could have gone either way.”
Senior goalkeeper Kai Reeves, in his first varsity start, had a lot to do with earning the win.
“He made three or four very important saves,” Alonso said of his keeper. “They had the better chances all night, to be fair. Kai didn’t have a lot to do, but when he had to make a save, he made three or four great ones.”
Reever said he didn’t have any first-game jitters.
“Not really, I just made sure to keep my head in, keep cool and do what I need to do,” he said. “I just need to keep calm and never fall asleep when I’m in the back and in the goal.”
With the first match out of the way, the Indians next head to Wichita for the Titan Classic. They open against Dodge City on Monday and will get the chance to play several top programs throughout the tournament.
Until then, the team can relish its first victory, even if there is plenty of room to improve.
“I’m not going to complain about a win, because a win is a win and that was a good team that we played,” Alonso said. “We showed the intensity needed to get our first win and we’ll take it.”