While the Manhattan High soccer team has seven wins to its credit this season, head coach Mike Sanchez has been waiting to see his team play to its potential against some of the tougher teams on the schedule.
Monday night against Hayden, Sanchez got his wish, as the Indians defeated the Wildcats 3-2 to stay just one game back in the Centennial League title hunt behind Washburn Rural.
“We’ve had some tough games and we’ve been close,” Sanchez said. “A team like Hayden is going to play physical, so it’s a huge win for us.”
On a windy night at Bishop Stadium, which blew across the field for much of the game but also to the north, the Indians used the wind to take control of the game early, then held on for the win in the second half.
Manhattan (7-4) got off to a quick start, getting a goal from Kelli Stockton in the 11th minute on a ball from Ally Taylor to take an early lead.
Toward the end of the half, Manhattan got its second goal on a solid play by Par McNair. The senior took a well-struck ball off her face but immediately controlled the ball and dribbled it for 20 yards, ultimately scoring the breakaway goal past the Hayden goalkeeper, which came out of the goal to try and make a play as the ball slowly rolled past her for a 2-0 Indian lead.
“That was wonderful,” McNair said of the shot to the face. “During basketball season in practice I got elbowed right in the tooth, so it’s been sensitive. But I sucked it up and put it in.”
Sanchez said the composure shown by McNair is something he’d like to see out of all his players.
“You know what you’re going to get out of Par,” Sanchez said. “That second goal that she had was nothing but her work ethic and her effort. She just ran through it. Sometimes you see girls that want to duck or turn their head so the ball doesn’t hit them, but you never know where the ball is going to go when it hits you.
“Fortunately for us it fell right back down to her feet and we got a goal out of it.”
In the second half, however, Hayden made it a game.
Margaret Dunshee scored a goal on a deflection to make it 2-1 with 26 minutes left to play as the Wildcats started using the wind to their advantage and turned up their intensity.
The Indians got an insurance goal with 7:02 to play by Aleise Williams on a breakaway, played up by Maggie Fischer to once again lead by two goals at 3-1.
The Wildcats answered quickly, however, with Addie Barry lofting a shot just out of Manhattan goalkeeper Molly Fiser’s reach with 2:15 left to play to again put the Indians on their heels.
But Manhattan held on for the win, nearly scoring again in the final minute off a corner kick, getting four attempts at the goal but coming up empty.
The teams each had 11 shots in the mostly-even match, though Hayden had more opportunities in the second period than Manhattan.
“They were doing a good job of getting balls across — that was a little scary at times,” Sanchez said. “Their physical play in the second half took us a little bit out of rhythm.”
With the win in the books, Manhattan gets two non-league road games, starting at Wichita Heights on Friday.
“We’ve started off a little rough against competitive teams like Hayden,” senior Zoey Botkin said. “It’s exciting, and hopefully we’re gearing up for playoffs, which are coming up. We needed to find our confidence. We needed to figure out how to put the ball in the net, and with this game, I think we did it.”