Indians outlast TMP in season opener
By KLINT SPILLER
Two crosstown soccer coaches. One led an experienced squad stacked with talented depth. The other came into the game with inexperienced players and an overabundance of open bench space.
Both left the field happy.
Hays High School, coming off a 16-5 state qualifying season, won the girls' soccer match 3-0 against Thomas More Prep-Marian in each team's season opener Thursday at HHS Field.
However, the match wasn't as close the score indicated. It was played predominately on TMP's half of the field with Hays High constantly moving the ball into its attacking third.
TMP, despite having just two players resting on the bench at a time, handled the pressure and made it difficult for Hays High to score all night.
"I think they made them work for it," said TMP head coach Darryl Wellbrock.
The Indians took 32 shots, 15 of which were on goal, but only three made it to the back of the net.
"We had some issues with converting some goals," said Hays High head coach Chris Michaelis. "What I liked and saw was we probably had more shots today than we've had in a lot of games in the past. The girls are doing a much better job of looking for shots early on."
TMP finished with one shot and only made it inside Hays High's box a few times, but nevertheless, Wellbrock was pleased with his squad's performance.
After all, Hays High was heavily favored. The Monarchs only have 13 players on their roster and finished with one win last season.
Prior the opening game, Wellbrock was concerned about his team's ability to play a full game with only two players to rotate in off the bench. Many players would have to play practically the entire game.
But against Hays High, the Monarchs battled through it and held the Indians scoreless for the final 38 minutes.
"They kept their stamina," Wellbrock said. "Some of them are cross country runners. I like that in the off-season. They are going to do nothing but get better with more games like this. ... When we get schools on our level, we are going to turn some heads this year."
Hays High scored two of its goals in the first half.
In the 14th minute, senior outside midfielder April Johnson collected a cross from senior Megan Bird on the backside of the box and kicked the ball into the goal.
"That play actually started with Megan Bird, sending the ball across the front of the goal, and April made that timely run like she needs to do, like the outside mid needs to do," Michaelis said.
In the 27th minute, senior striker Taylor Herman doubled the lead. She intercepted the goal kick and blasted it into the top right corner of the goal.
The most fluid goal of the night came just after halftime.
A minute and four seconds into the second half, Johnson crossed the ball into the box to Herman. Herman redirected the pass to senior Michele Linville in front of the goal, and Linville tapped it in.
Michaelis said he was pleased with his squad's progress.
"I thought we did some things that showed we are ahead of schedule compared to where we were last year," Michaelis said. "It makes me happier, but we've still got a lot of things we need to work on both offensively and defensively."
Michaelis said his squad needs to use Spring Break to fix some issues he saw Thursday, because after that, the schedule heats up.
"After Spring Break, we'll go to that McPherson Tournament and it will be boom, boom, boom," Michaelis said. "We don't have a ton of time to work with the kids, but hopefully, they'll get the ball at their feet and we can get some things done during Spring Break."
TMP sophomore goalkeeper Sarah Gustin finished with 12 saves -- three of which came in the final two minutes.
Wellbrock said she was nervous before the game. Gustin saw some time at goalkeeper last season, but she was never at the top of the depth chart like she is this season.
"She was a little shaky at the beginning of the warmups," he said.
Her most impressive save might have come at the start of the 78th minute when she caught a header from point-blank range.
Wellbrock credited his squad's defense for making Hays High's shots difficult.
"(Gustin said after the game) it's a lot easier being goalkeeper when you've got a defense in front of you," Wellbrock said. "Andie (Marsell) and Alivia (Inlow) did a good job."
Wellbrock had a scare midway through the game, though.
Freshman Racheal Hamel, who Wellbrock lauded for her improved ball skills, left the game with severe side aches and missed a long stretch. Wellbrock said he hopes Hamel will be fine, especially since it would leave TMP with just 12 players.
"They've got to be OK," Wellbrock said. "I can't have anybody not healthy, quit or do anything on me. They know that. They are all in this together."