Tuesday’s playoff-opening matchup against the Wichita South Titans had all the makings of a trap game for the Manhattan High boys’ soccer team.
With a matchup against Washburn Rural looming at 6 p.m. on Thursday, the Indians first needed to take care of business against 12th-seeded South, a team they beat handily earlier this month.
Tuesday’s score was similar, with Manhattan winning 9-0 to advance to Thursday’s matchup with fourth-seeded Rural in Topeka.
“Expectations get you out of the playoffs, and looking ahead gets you out,” Manhattan coach Frank Alonso said. “The boys did a good job refocusing — I’m not saying they felt the pressure early, but once we got that second goal, they started to relax and did a nice job.”
Forward Peter Maier said the team had the potential to look past South.
“A little bit, honestly, with some of the guys,” Maier said. “They have something to play for as well, even as a 12-seed, they have nothing to lose. They’re going to give it their everything.”
Instead, Manhattan (13-3-1) took a 5-0 lead to halftime and kept scoring until the final minutes.
The Indians struck first, getting Eric Gray his first goal on a header from about 10 yards out on a solid pass across the field from Tyler Daveline in the ninth minute. In the 14th minute, Michael Cossey punched in a goal on a pass by Austin French to make it 2-0, before Gray got his second goal on a breakaway past the goalkeeper that resulted in an empty goal and an easy score.
Sporting a 3-0 lead, Manhattan got four consecutive cornerkicks in the 26th minute, but couldn’t convert them.
Manhattan wouldn’t score again until Maier’s goal to the left side of the net in the 38th minute. The goal marked the 67th goal of the season for the Indians, which breaks the single-season school record shared by both the 2003 team and the 2012 team. The Indians’ season total now stands at 72 and counting.
“All the credit goes to the players,” Alonso said. “They’ve done a great job. On our end, all we’ve had to do is tweak it. We’ve had a really good squad the last couple years, they deserve all the credit.”
Gray would make it 5-0 at halftime with a quick goal, also in the 38th minute.
In the second half, Manhattan made it 6-0 on a Maier’s second goal, this one coming on a shot from 20 yards out. Maier got himself a hat trick just four minutes later, putting in a goal from about 12 yards out.
The Indians would take an 8-0 lead on a goal from Kodi Minocha, with Jonathan Turnley adding the game’s final goal in the 78th minute to cap the 9-0 victory.
“I think for the last couple of games, our forwards are starting to come around — they’ve been really solid,” Alonso said. “We’ve got two forwards with 16 goals each, which for us is a lot of goals. It’s not always about our forwards, but in the playoffs, it’s going to be a tight game and you need your forwards firing on all cylinders.”
While Manhattan’s seniors sat for much of the second period, they returned in the game’s final minutes, getting a pair of goals in the process.
“I wanted the seniors to finish the game,” Alonso said. “It may have looked like we were trying to run up the score, but I really just wanted to let my seniors finish the game.”
Now with the Rural matchup official, Manhattan will have only today to watch film and prepare before making the trip on Thursday.
Cossey said the team has plenty of confidence after coming away with a 3-3 tie earlier in the year against the Junior Blues.
“We have a really solid team, a solid set up, we just need to play faster,” Cossey said. “Our strength is playing it on the ground and being able to pass it around the other team. If we step that up, and use it against them, we shouldn’t have a problem.”
Maier, who was out with an injury the first time the two teams met, said he is ready to get his chance against Rural.
“Unfortunately, I was injured, so I didn’t play in that game,” Maier said. “But watching it, I’m boiling inside — I’m ready to go. But it gave us some confidence. They came down to watch our game, so there’s no tricks or secrets between us.”
Lambert out with ankle injury
Sophomore Kirkland Lambert, one of three players with more than 10 goals on the season for the Indians, will miss the rest of the season with a high-ankle sprain he suffered while practicing on Monday.
“He basically fell over a ball yesterday,” Alonso said. “He’s out for 4-6 weeks, which is a real shame.“s seniors sat for much of the second period, they returned in the game