Tonganoxie soccer players looking forward to playoffs
With just one match left in the regular season, Tonganoxie High’s boys soccer players are excited about the coming playoffs and what could lie ahead.
Winners of three straight matches and four of their last six, the Chieftains — at 8-6-1 — know a solid regional seeding and a winning record are guaranteed.
THS senior captain Marcus Titterington said only the beginning of the season (which featured a tie and two losses in the first four matches) didn’t go as the players hoped and, otherwise, they are proud of what the team has been able to accomplish.
“We’re all pretty excited, especially since we haven’t had this good of a season in a long time,” the senior defender said.
Tonganoxie coach Brian Kroll, meanwhile, doesn’t mind playing devil’s advocate.
“We’ve assured ourselves of a winning regular season,” he said, explaining a loss at Leavenworth in Tonganoxie’s regular-season finale plus a loss in the first round of the playoffs would put the team at .500.
“It’s a winning season in everybody else’s eyes, but not my eyes,” the coach said of such a scenario.
Because of the Chieftains’ regular-season success, they could get some help in the playoffs with a home match in the first round.
Senior captain Tyler Bartholomew pointed out that nobody on the current team has experienced a home playoff match. The playoffs are exciting enough on their own merit, he said, and adding a home-field advantage to that would make it even more intense.
“Considering what happens, the heat of the moment type thing,” Bartholomew said, “we’d be out of our minds for a home playoff game.”
Before THS beat Bishop Ward, 1-0, in double overtime Thursday on Senior Night, Kroll reminded the seniors they could have the chance to play on their home turf again.
“All it takes is for us to win and somebody else to lose and there’s a possibility we host regionals,” the coach said of the most ideal possibility — a No. 3 seed — for his team.
Last year, Tonganoxie had just one regular-season victory and won two road playoff matches as the No. 15 seed before losing in a regional final on sudden-death penalty kicks against Maur Hill-Mount Academy.
Kroll said he feels better this year about the team’s potential heading into the postseason.
“A year ago, I knew the potential was there, but they were still pretty young,” he said. “This year, there’s no more excuses and, let’s face it, a lot of them can’t get any older.”
Indeed, THS gets plenty of contributions from seniors Bartholomew, Titterington, captain Matt Briggs, Joseph Parrino, Cody Martin, Colton Young, Shane Starcher and Daniel Monahan.
Add to that the experience of juniors Matt Saathoff, goalkeeper Keaton Truesdell and captain Zack Tallent and it’s easy to understand why the Chieftains are confident heading into the postseason.
Titterington said the players think they can win in the playoffs.
“As long as we pull together as a team, like coach always says, there’s few people that can hang with us,” he said.
Even though THS reached a regional final in 2010, Bartholomew said this year could bring even more success.
“(We’re) definitely capable of going farther than we did last season,” he said. “It’ll be tough, but I think we can definitely handle it.”
Kroll said his team has the right mix of players and talent to win in the postseason.
“I don’t see any reason why we can’t be one of the top eight in the state this year,” the second-year THS coach said. “I really, legitimately don’t. Anything less than that, in my opinion, is not necessarily a failure, but we did not reach our potential, I would say.”
At 6 p.m. Thursday at Leavenworth, the Chieftains play their regular-season finale.