Last year, the Manhattan girls soccer team was 90 seconds away from penalty kicks against the eventual state champion Shawnee Mission West in the final four of the 6A state tournament.
The Indians took third place, but there isn’t much pressure on the team for a repeat performance, head coach Mike Sanchez said, because he knows they can do it.
Last year’s squad took the Centennial League championship and regional crown, and Sanchez feels his team is poised to have another good season.
“The goal is always to make the 6A final four and place,” he said. “We want to aim high.”
Sanchez said a strong core is returning from last year and is complemented by promising newcomers. He expects underclassmen to compete along with seniors. The Indians employ a 4-3-3 strategy, and Division I commit Karmen Martinie anchors the three-player defense. Sanchez also expects contributions from junior midfielders Cailey Perkins and Tessa Irvine as well as junior fullback Sadie Samenus. He added that he thinks Addy Stone and Hannah Religa will contribute.
Sanchez tries to promote a family atmosphere on his team, and he thinks its chemistry and selflessness contributes to success on the field.
“We want everyone to lead, so I’d say it’s them collectively as a group,” he said. “It’s very much a team, family mindset.”
Sanchez is proud of what last year’s team accomplished as the season went on.
“We took (Shawnee Mission West) down to the wire,” he said. “We played one of our best games of the year when it mattered most.”
As for this year, Sanchez likes what he sees so far.
“I love it,” Sanchez said. “We’re playing the way we can play.”
He can’t wait for Manhattan’s first game at 7:15 p.m. on Thursday at Junction City.
The Indians’ first home game will be at 2 p.m. against Blue Valley West on March 25.