With one final game in the regular season before the playoffs begin, Manhattan head coach Frank Alonso wanted his team to come out with a playoff mentality.
After taking care of business against Junction City with a 5-0 win, consider that mission accomplished.
“Our forwards seemed to be gearing up for the playoff run, and that’s exciting because we’ve got good forwards,” Alonso said. “And it’s not just about our forwards, obviously, but as a team we’re really gearing up.”
Manhattan got things going in the first half with a goal in the 12th minute by Tyler Daveline. From there, the Indians got back-to-back goals in the 17th and 18th minutes. Matt Liotta assisted on the first goal by Eric Gray to give Manhattan a 2-0 lead, before Austin French assisted to Peter Maier.
“We had a lot of nice goals,” Alonso said. “Eric had some really nice shots, one of them was from about 20-yards out.”
In the 36th minute, Gray scored his second goal on a ball from Maier to make it 4-0 at the break.
In the second half, Gray scored his third goal of the night on an assist from Kodi Minocha to stake the Indians to a 5-0 lead, with Alonso opting to rest his starters the rest of the way.
Manhattan (12-3-1) outshot the Blue Jays 17-1.
“We played well,” Alonso said. “We looked at a couple things formation-wise that we may have to use down the road, depending on if we advance in the playoffs. But the boys played well.”
Alonso said he was pleased the defense preserved the shutout after the game was put away.
“It was a good job,” he said. “And it’s nice that we got a shutout, too, because we haven’t gotten as many as we should have.”
While he knows defense is important, Alonso said the team wins and loses by the way its forwards play. They need to be on from here out if Manhattan hopes to advance through the bracket.
“We hate to just talk about forwards, but we need them to be on,” he said. “We know what we’re going to get with our midfielders, our defenders and our goalkeeper. They’re very solid and they’re very strong. But forwards, it’s just the nature of the game, they’re either on or they’re off.”
With the regular season complete, Manhattan locked in its No. 5 seed in the Central/South Central region. Earning the No. 12 seed is Wichita South, meaning the Titans will be making their second trip to Bishop Stadium in less than a month. Manhattan won the first meeting 9-2 on Oct. 1.
Should the Indians advance past the Titans, they’d travel to play Washburn Rural instead of hosting a game.
“We’re in a really tough bracket,” Alonso said. “If we win Tuesday, we’ll go to the No. 2-ranked team in the state with Washburn Rural and if we win that, we go play Wichita Northwest. So it’s a tough road, but we’ve got the team to do it, and in a one-game series, anything can happen. Obviously we’ve got to win Tuesday first.”
Tuesday’s playoff opener against Wichita South is set to start at 6 p.m. at Bishop Stadium.