Mike Sanchez couldn’t figure out exactly why his team got off to a slow start.
But once they got going, the Manhattan High girls’ soccer team looked unstoppable in a 9-0 win over Wichita East in a regional opener on Tuesday at Bishop Stadium.
Manhattan will host Garden City in a regional final on Thursday at 6 p.m.
The Indians jumped on the board early in the first half with Par McNair finding Emma Samenus with a pass across the ground through East defenders that finished in a goal for Samenus at the 34:31 mark. But then it got a little bit quiet.
Manhattan would get the ball down on East’s side of the field and mount an attack, but it would end in a misfired shot. McNair would end the drought for the Indians, and they’d never look back.
With 12:08 left in the half McNair turned around in a crowd of defenders and nailed a shot toward the goal from more than 20 yards out. The ball curved in and tucked in just inside the top right corner to put MHS ahead 2-0.
“We felt really slow at the beginning, but after we saw their team and saw what we needed to do to get past their defense, it started to roll, people started to finish their goals,” McNair said. “I think their might have been a little bit of underestimating them so we came off slow, and then it just clicked that we have to work for it to get it there.”
Kelsey Schroll served up a ball for Kelli Stockton, who headed it in for a goal at the 7:53 mark. And then with 1:40 left in the first half, Stockton scored on a pass from Ally Taylor to put the Indians ahead 4-0 by halftime.
“It was a little bit of a slow start,” senior Lani Fischer said. “We’ve had a couple of those games, but after awhile we realized we needed to pick it up, and then we had four goals by the end of the first half.”
The Indians scored early in the first half when Schroll finished on a pass from Zoey Botkin with 37:42 left. Samenus scored her second goal of the game with 34:55 left to play on a pass from Brooke Henry.
Henry got a goal of her own with 17:17 to play off an assist from Stockton, and then Samenus finished a hattrick on a pass from Maddie Taylor.
Maddie Taylor scored the final goal of the game with 1:02 left to play on a feed from Hannah Livsey.
The Indians finished with 27 shots and 14 on goal, while Wichita East had one shot on goal in the contest, and rarely had a chance to get on the offensive.
“I think we got a little bit greedy and wanted to walk it in, but they were having fun with it,” Sanchez said. “I think (Wichita East) was a little more motivated. They thought they could come in and upset us. When you’re Final Four and continuously winning regional finals and making sub-state, you’ve got a target on your back.”
Sanchez still wasn’t quite sure what contributed to his teams’ slow start on Tuesday, but he wondered if the heat was partially to blame. It’s been a mostly cool spring throughout the regular-season schedule, but as the end of the year approaches, and so does summer, the temperatures will likely get warmer.
Twice during Tuesday’s game, teams took mandatory water breaks midway through the half.
“I want to say the heat (is to blame),” Sanchez said. “It was just hot. They’re not used to playing in 90-degree heat right now. We’ve had 60 and 70, but 90 degrees? We haven’t played in anything like that. I’m sure we’ll see more.”
Sanchez said they will be happy to be at home again on Thursday when they host Garden City. Despite not knowing much about the Buffaloes, Sanchez said they will keep to their own identity.
“I don’t know anything about Garden City,” he said. “I just think if we play our game, we’ll be fine, and we’ll make adjustments as the game progresses.”