Trailing 1-0 at halftime on senior night against Shawnee Heights, the Manhattan High girls’ soccer team was playing a step slow.
A frustrated Mike Sanchez said the same things he’s said all season, and almost immediately, the Indians got into gear.
Par McNair scored on a ball from Emma Samenus just two minutes into the second half, before senior Bailey Snyder put the game away with less than six minutes left on a pass from Savannah Roberts to give Manhattan a 2-1 victory in the regular-season finale.
“I think we came out slow in the first half,” Sanchez said. “You’ve got all the hoopla with senior night, so it’s hard to get everybody focused, because there is a routine and it gets thrown off a little bit. It’s a great experience for everybody, but it does change the focus a little bit for us.”
Sanchez said his halftime message remained unchanged.
“We’re 15 games in, it’s usually the same thing,” he said. “They already know what I’m going to say. I think they just dug deep and it’s senior night, so they realized they needed to come out and get it right away.”
Also helping the Indians along was a formation switch to help increase pressure on the T-Bird back line.
“The final 20 minutes, we switched to a 4-3-3, tried to be more aggressive,” Sanchez said. “We felt like their strengths were through the core, so we felt like we could handle them with three in the midfield and stretch them up top as well.”
Senior Courtney Payne said the team wanted to win for the seniors, but especially wanted to enter the playoffs on a win.
“It was really important because it was our senior night and our last game before playoffs,” Payne said. “We really wanted to win because we’re at home. I think we played a little harder to win for the seniors on senior night.”
Snyder said she was glad to be able to get the final goal for her teammates.
“It felt good,” she said. “I’m glad I put it away and we got the win, and we can move on. We needed the win to keep momentum going for next week.”
Shawnee Heights got a goal from Kellen Wittman in the 17th minute of the first half on a ball from Hailey Trupp. The T-Birds were solid in the first half, keeping the ball on Manhattan’s side of the field and not letting the Indians’ offense get going.
That all changed in the second period, though.
MHS finished the game with 15 shots, with eight shots on goal. The T-Birds had four shots, with four on goal.
Sanchez started all his seniors in the game, including injured players Kristen Thompson and Kayla Faust, who came right back out of the game after the first minute.
“I don’t have any daughters,” Sanchez said. “I think of them as daughters, I care about the group. Six of them are going to play at the next level, and I can’t wait to see them play at the next level as well, to see what they do beyond high school. It’s a special group.”
Manhattan will host its first playoff game next week, though the opponent won’t be known until tomorrow at the seeding meeting.
“We really don’t know who we’ll play,” he said. “Saturday I’ll go to Topeka and find out. I think we’ll be a three or a four, not 100 percent sure. Saturday we’ll find out who we play on Tuesday and prepare for it and take it one game at a time.”