Coming off an appearance at state last season, Manhattan girls’ soccer coach Mike Sanchez has set the team’s goals just as high this year.
With six seniors returning from last year’s team and plenty of young talent, the Indians are looking to improve upon last year’s fourth-place finish at state.
“Obviously for them and for us, we’d like to get Centennial League back here again,” Sanchez said. “We didn’t win it last year. We want to win our regional final, get back to the final four and come home with something other than fourth.
“That’s a big goal for the girls.”
Manhattan opens its season tonight with a match against Topeka High at Hummer Sports Park at 6:15. The team follows that with a challenging game on Saturday at Blue Valley West at 2 p.m.
“I think it will be good,” Sanchez said. “(Today) we’ll find out a lot, and then again on Saturday. It’s a quick turnaround. It will be a good test for us and will show us what we need to work on and how we need to improve.”
While the weather has been a challenge for several of the spring sports gearing up for the upcoming season, the soccer team has been braving the elements and utilizing the new turf at Bishop Stadium. Despite blustery winds, cool temperatures and on-and-off rain, the Indians were outside practicing on Wednesday in preparation for their season opener.
“It’s nice to have turf,” Sanchez said. “The snow created a little bit of an issue early in March, we had to go inside for a few days, but once we got out here, it’s been good.”
One challenge for Sanchez was the state tournament run by the girls’ basketball team. Par McNair, Molly Fiser and Maddie Taylor were all busy with basketball up until last week.
“Trying to work everybody into a cohesive group is a challenge,” he said. “I think it’ll be good. We’ve got six girls back who are seniors returning from last year’s varsity team. They gel real well together, there’s no personality issues.”
The team will begin the year without forward Emma Samenus, a second-team All-Centennial League selection from a year ago and a big source of offense at the forward position. The senior injured her ankle at the start of spring practices.
“It’s frustrating — it kills me,” Samenus said. “It’s my senior year, and I’m starting on the bench. But I’ll start PT and get back out there pretty soon.”
Samenus said she thinks the team’s strength will be in its familiarity with each other.
“Our team is very close-knit,” she said. “Most of us have played together for a really long time, so I think that’s really going to help us.”
McNair agreed, pointing to the team’s compatibility as a strength. She also said the team’s first goal is to win the league.
“First we need to get it done in our league, because we have so much potential on the team,” McNair said. “It’s just about finding our potential and putting it in the right places.”
Sanchez said the team still needs to identify who will lead the charge at forward, especially with Samenus out for a few more weeks.
“For us it’s just to be more dangerous up top,” he said. “We need to find out who is going to lead the way and be a game-changer for us and score goals. We need a dynamic player for our attack. Obviously we lost a player last year in Bailey Snyder — she was a gamer. She stepped up big for us, but we’re capable of finding someone this year.”