When Junction City and Manhattan meet, you can usually throw records out the window and forget about the series history.
With just one more game on the regular-season schedule, every win or loss becomes important, but the rivalry between the Indians and the Blue Jays transcends even that.
Throw in the fact that Junction City has been improving, and the potential for a great soccer game was there.
Tuesday’s matchup in Junction City did not disappoint.
Manhattan won 1-0 in double overtime against the Blue Jays, scoring in the final 30 seconds to finally come out on top in a double overtime matchup after losing two earlier this season.
“That was nice to come away with,” MHS coach Mike Sanchez said. “We’ve had two games go down to double overtime and we came out on the losing end. It was a tough game, they’re a physical team and it was a real battle. Both teams had plenty of opportunities to put the game away.”
Manhattan got a corner kick with a minute to play, leaving Jennifer Then — who handles all of Manhattan’s kicks from the corner — sprinting up from the back line. Her kick was handled by the Junction City defense but found its way back to her. She fired a shot on goal that found the back of the net to earn the win in a game that was less than 30 seconds from ending in a tie.
“We know that feeling,” Sanchez said of losing in overtime. “That was something we didn’t want to feel again.”
Sanchez said this year’s Junction City squad was as good as he’s seen in his time here.
“They have a strong team,” he said. “Since I’ve been apart of soccer here in Manhattan, they’ve been improving. It was definitely a lot different game than the two times we saw them last year.”
While Manhattan was its usual aggressive self on offense, the defensive work of the Blue Jays — especially sophomore center back Cassidy Meadows — made things tough for the Indians.
“We definitely had some opportunities,” Sanchez said. “They have a center back — she’s the real deal. I wouldn’t say we game planned for her, but our objective was to draw her away from the middle of the field and look to put balls in there. Take her out of that back line. She was a good player and any quality opportunities we had, she was right there.”
The Blue Jays in turn tried to counter when Manhattan overcommitted in the final third. Neither offensive strategy found much success because of solid work by the two goalkeepers. Manhattan’s Molly Fiser finished off the shutout with eight saves.
“They looked to counter on us, once we’d work our way through the midfield and the final third, if we were dispossessed, they’d look to send a big ball downfield and catch us on the counterattack,” Sanchez said. “We saw that coming, so we tried to adjust our game plan.”
Each team finished with 15 shots. Manhattan had 10 on goal, Junction City finished with eight. The Indians finish off the regular season with a home match at 6 p.m. on Thursday against Shawnee Heights at Anneberg Park. Playoff soccer begins next week.