The goal that Manhattan used to secure a 1-0 win over Wichita North Wednesday afternoon and move on to the Class 6A state tournament was, according to almost all involved, a blur.
Let them explain.
Manhattan sophomore Sam Grynkiewicz, who received a well-placed pass from senior Makael Whipple in the open field, knew she had a chance to make another pass into the box to sophomore Reagan Geisbrecht.
That’s when chemistry kicked in.
Grynkiewicz crossed a perfect pass over to Geisbrecht, who only had to tap it past North keeper Itzel Lucero Diaz and into the back of the net.
She did. The Manhattan bench erupted. Grynkiewicz and Geisbrecht leapt into a hug.
The Indians had a 1-0 lead with a shade over 18 minutes to play at Bishop Stadium.
“Knowing she’s going to be there is good,” Grynkiewicz said, referring to Geisbrecht. “If it was someone else, I might not have played it, because they would have made a different run. But I knew she was going to be right there.”
To Geisbrecht, it all happened quickly.
“When I hit the ball, I knew it,” she said with a laugh. “There’s some times when I get that pass, and I trip over it, and I know it’s not good — but that one, I could feel it. It was so relieving to have the lead.”
The Indians had broken a scoreless drought and made up for the slew of chances they missed in the first half, but they weren’t out of the woods, not with nearly 20 minutes of time remaining and Wichita North forward Nayeli Gallo on the attack.
So Manhattan keeper Gracyn Evans did what she’s built a reputation for this season: She made a timely save.
It came with about five minutes to play. Gallo snaked her way around several Manhattan defenders, broke into the open field and sent a shot toward Evans.
Bishop Stadium held its breath. Then Evans laid out to her left and tipped the ball with her fingertips out of bounds.
That’s what made Manhattan coach Mike Sanchez chuckle after the game. He was impressed. But he had seen it happen so many times before.
“She’s done it all year,” Sanchez said. “I’m not saying we expect it, because she’s got 10 players in front of her, but she’s big time. She’s stepping up huge. She’s had a monster year for us.”
Defensively, Sanchez said he liked what sophomore Whitney Wilson gave the club. She was tagged to Gallo for most of the match, helping prevent her the Wichita North star from scoring.
It was important, Sanchez said, because of the threat Gallo presented all afternoon — she was quick, elusive and shifty, forcing Manhattan to make sure she didn’t escape at the wrong time.
“From a defensive standpoint, Whitney was huge in stopping Gallo from being able to create on the dribble,” Sanchez said. “She was dangerous. Very dangerous. I would give her credit — probably the most dangerous player we’ve played all year.”
On the other hand, Manhattan could have played with a lead far earlier if it had capitalized in the first half. The Indians recorded three shots on goal, including one off the top crossbar and one that sailed just over the net.
Still, it made the Indians more confident, Sanchez said, because they knew they could score. It was just a matter of, well, doing it.
The chance arrived when Grynkiewicz caught the pass from Whipple. MHS cashed in. To Sanchez, it was the product of one thing in particular.
“Things that we talk about and work on in practice,” Sanchez said. “We talked a little bit about it at halftime. It’s phenomenal to see it happen and all take place. Hopefully the lightbulbs click, and they’re like, ‘Yeah. That’s what we were talking about.’”
Manhattan will face a familiar foe on Friday in Wichita at the state tournament: Blue Valley West. The Indians lost to the Jaguars, 3-2, in the same scenario last season, and again, 2-0, earlier this season.
Sanchez, Grynkiewicz and Geisbrecht, though, all agreed on one point: Now, MHS is a different team.
The Indians have improved and changed, even from March 23, when they fell to the Jaguars.
They’ll get a chance to prove so Friday night at Wichita South, the site of the tournament.
“These girls have battled through so much already this year,” Sanchez said. “They’ll be prepared, and they’ll be excited to get down there.”
MHS 1, Wichita South 0
MHS — Geisbrecht, 18:08 (from Grynkiewicz)