As the Thomas More Prep-Marian boys’ soccer team warmed up for Tuesday’s home contest with Great Bend, Michael Braun and Company looked relaxed, confident and ready to play. Just two minutes after the whistle, they slumped their shoulders and appeared dejected.
The look and effort only worsened as the Monarchs struggled to keep the Great Bend attack at bay, falling to 2-9 on the season with a 10-0 loss. The Panthers firepower ended the onslaught with 5:20 to play in the match.
Braun, a sophomore defender and captain of the Monarchs, said the squad can be much more competitive when it learns to translate the energy from pregame onto the field.
“We just gotta get fired up more early. We always are in warm ups and we sit down and talk before the game,” Braun said following Tuesday’s match at Bickle/Schmidt Sports Complex. “By the time we get out there, we’re not fired up. We’ve gotten behind a lot but we just need to put together a full game and we can keep stuff close.”
Eric Martinez scored his first of five goals for the Panthers in the third minute with Carlos Franco following suit 45 seconds later. Over the next 10 minutes, the teams battled evenly as sophomore midfielder Alec Stults made multiple tackles in the middle of the field and was able to find the likes of Ryan Karlin and Junior Hernandez with connecting passes.
“We’ve done this all season,” said Darryl Wellbrock, head coach of the Monarchs. “We get down a couple goals and then we decide to play. I’ve talked to them and talked to them about that. We don’t come out 100 percent right off the bat. Part of that is being young. They’re sitting back, relaxing, not taking it serious enough, maybe. I talk to them and talk to them about 100 percent, it just doesn’t happen, then they give up the goals, then the mental part kicks in of letting down.”
Despite the sparks of life early in the opening half, Martinez found the net past senior goalkeeper Joshua Stark in the 18th minute. The Monarchs’ defense held strong until Martinez struck again five minutes before half. Jonathan Sanchez followed suit 44 seconds later for a halftime score of 5-0.
“There were moments in the first half where I thought we possessed it better,” Braun said. “We got behind so early, it was hard to possess it and try to get back from the hole we dug ourselves.”
The Monarchs were unable to create many valuable chances with their closest attempt to a shot on goal finding the crossbar early in the second half. The Monarchs played with Great Bend for the first 14 minutes before the Panthers’ speed eventually wore them down and led to five more goals, including three between 18:23 and 15:06 to play in the game.
For Wellbrock, matches against the likes of Great Bend, Dodge City and Garden City have proved the team’s youth — the Monarchs start multiple freshman and roster four seniors.
“We didn’t really challenge them at all, defensively,” Wellbrock said. “The age is showing, the speed is showing. Hopefully we grow into the speed, we can develop some speed. I thought we had some fast guys at the beginning of the season but obviously it’s not enough of them or not fast enough.”
As the Monarchs try to find a win against an opponent other than St. John’s Military, Wellbrock said it has become apparent the toll the losing is taking on the players. With one week until the Monarchs are back in action at the North Cup Tournament in Wichita, he said it is his job to get his team’s mind right.
“These losses are beating them down so trying to mentally keep them in a game is tough,” Wellbrock said. “That’s part of my job right now, to have them finish the season. We’ve got a chance at a couple more maybe to win. Hopefully they can do that. If not, we’ve got a great group of kids that will hopefully come back next season, get better and improve.”