When his club entered halftime staring at a 1-0 deficit Friday night against Hayden, Manhattan coach Mike Sanchez’s message wasn’t anything special. It was simple, really, considering the circumstances.
“‘We don’t have excuses,’’ Sanchez told his team. “‘We’ve just got to play. We know we can win this game. We’ve got to do that from the get-go, not when we have our backs against the wall.’”
Manhattan promptly scored two goals less than a minute apart, the first from junior Jordan Stegeman and the second from sophomore Reagan Geisbrecht, good for a 2-1 win over Hayden at Bishop Stadium.
It happened that fast.
“When we need to do something, we do it,” Stegeman said. “We need to have that mentality all the time, to just get through things and make it happen.”
The two goals came about in different ways.
On the first, in the 51st minute, Stegeman found the ball on the right side, just outside the box. She zipped a shot toward the goal, and it slipped right through the hands of Hayden keeper Maddie McGreevy.
Then, 36 seconds of game time later, Manhattan (9-3-1) was at it again. Sophomore Faith Beyer unleashed a nifty upfield pass, leading Geisbrecht to the spot, but Geisbrecht still had work to do. There was only one Hayden defender to beat, the keeper, and with a quick side step, Geisbrecht shook McGreevy and tapped in an easy goal.
Suddenly, Manhattan had a 2-1 lead.
Quite the difference in halves — but Sanchez still came away wary.
“They turned it on the second half,” he said, “but I told them that we can’t have that kind of mentality, because you get a team that can park the bus. (Hayden) was willing to commit to the attack. They weren’t giving up that want to get forward. They kept pushing us and pushing us.”
Still, Manhattan benefited from the return of Stegeman, who had been dealing with nagging injuries. She missed two weeks with a hamstring injury, then, on April 4, she sprained her ankle.
Another three weeks down the drain.
She made her return last week, in her squad’s 2-1 home win over Blue Valley Stilwell, scoring once in the victory.
Make it three straight games scoring for Stegeman, who added that she injuries might have been a blessing in disguise of sorts.
“It makes me love the game more,” she said, “because I missed so much of that time when I could have kept on improving. Getting out there makes me want to score more goals and get back into it.”
It was clear: The one time Sanchez pulled Stegeman from the game, she couldn’t resist.
She wanted back in.
“I just wanted to get a drink and go back on,” Stegeman said. “I was so energized and so happy that I was scoring again. Scoring was an amazing feeling.”
Even more encouraging for the Indians: they could have scored more. Manhattan tallied 12 shots, including nine on goal, several of them requiring slick saves or clanging off the crossbar.
To Sanchez, the reason was simple enough: off-ball movement.
“It was definitely a lot better,” Sanchez said. “They were playing a high, flat backline, and our passes just weren’t weighted enough.”
Manhattan now turns its attention to a road matchup with Great Bend on Monday. Despite how well they’re playing recently, Sanchez and the players already are bemoaning one aspect of the trip.
The drive will take more than two hours.
“We need to get our energy up and play the way we’ve been playing against these harder teams,” Stegeman said, “and get it done.”
Then, Stegeman added with a laugh: “That bus drive is not something I’m looking forward to.”
Hayden 1 0 — 1
Manhattan 0 2 — 2
Hayden — Ellis, 26:49
MHS — Stegeman, 29:05
MHS — Geisbrecht, 28:29