Tonganoxie soccer knocked out in Class 4-1A quarterfinals by ‘toughest team in state’
Head coach Brian Kroll applauded his team as the final buzzer rang Tuesday in Tonganoxie after the state quarterfinal match between the Tonganoxie and St. James boys soccer teams.
The Chieftains walked off the pitch for the final time this year, coming out on the losing end of the 2-1 final that ended their season. But Kroll was proud of his team, which he greeted with hugs after the squad had just battled what he called the, “toughest team that anyone in the state will face all year."
“I told them that they just gave one of the best teams in the state of Kansas everything that they could handle and 2-1 in a contest like that, when I think they expected to come in and blow us out,” Kroll said, “I’m not so sure we didn’t expect the same thing, but we gave them a game. We gave them a run and it was awesome.”
St. James dominated possession and the number of shots in the first half. The Thunder’s Steven Enna had several shots saved by Tonganoxie goalkeeper Keaton Truesdell before scoring the first goal of the match with 23 minutes remaining in the first half. Truesdell would corral a number of Thunder shots until St. James midfielder Matthew Brophy netted the second Thunder goal off a free kick with 3:40 remaining before halftime.
Kroll called Truesdell’s performance great and also credited the performance of the Tonganoxie defense.
“I would say overall as a keeper in general and as a player, I think he is fantastic and he has really come into his own,” Kroll said.
Tonganoxie’s defense shutout the Thunder in the second half, and gave the offense a chance to get back in the match. After several crosses into the St. James 18-yard box, Tonganoxie answered with 1:45 left on a header by Matthew Saathoff, the team’s leading scorer on the season.
“They have been a complete swing from last year’s group where last year, once we got down, we kind of folded a little bit,” Kroll said. “But they really matured and they’ve gotten into the grove that, hey, goals happen, whether they’re ours or there’s, goals happen and never quit.”
Tonganoxie would send repeated passes deep into Thunder territory, but the St. James defense successfully cleared the ball to preserve the victory. Tonganoxie ended the season with a record of 11-7-1 and had 10 seniors play in their final match.
Kroll said for the players returning next season, playing a team of St. James’ caliber in the state tournament is a valuable experience.
“It’s priceless because they just saw the game played very well,” Kroll said. “I’m going to say very well by St. James and probably as good as we’re capable of playing in (Tonganoxie).”
The Chieftains advanced to the state tournament after coming up a game short the past two years. Tonganoxie played the role of underdog in this match, but Kroll said the program is getting its name out and will continue to improve.
“I would say that this is definitely the start. This is definitely the beginning,” Kroll said. “I mean, a lot of things have changed, a lot of things have changed over the course of the last year but yeah, it’s the new face of (Tonganoxie) soccer and it’s only going to get better.”