Penalty kick pushes Tonganoxie High soccer into win column in regular-season finale
Playoff brackets to be announced Saturday
A victory is a victory — and this one guaranteed Tonganoxie High its first winning soccer season in years — but THS coach Brian Kroll would like to see a better performance when the postseason begins next week.
THS won, 3-2, in overtime Thursday at Leavenworth.
“We played well enough to win the game,” Kroll said. “More often than not, that’s what you need to do.
“But at this point in the season, we should be clicking on all cylinders no matter who our opponent is. And last night we didn’t do that.”
Leavenworth (0-16) scored first about 10 minutes into the match before Tonganoxie (9-6-1) tied the game roughly five minutes later with a Matt Saathoff goal. Saathoff had a breakaway opportunity that eventually ended with a shot past the Pioneer goalkeeper.
The line score easily could have read Saathoff 3, Leavenworth 2, as the junior scored again in the second half and in overtime.
Tonganoxie’s second goal was a Saathoff header in the 76th minute. The ball went to a corner and Matt Briggs sent the ball to the middle where Saathoff connected and helped THS to a 2-1 lead.
Leavenworth, though, responded with a similar play, as the Pioneers tapped the ball in and tied the game, 2-2.
In overtime, however, it didn’t take long for the Chieftains to knock in the game-winner.
Two minutes into overtime, Saathoff again had a breakaway opportunity, but a defender tripped him up in the box, resulting in a penalty kick.
Saathoff connected, and the Chieftains escaped with the victory.
“We were flat,” Kroll said. “They owned us the entire first half. The second half, we woke up.”
He added that he thought Leavenworth “played a fantastic game.”
The THS coach also had praise for his own Marcus Titterington, who played “pretty much lights-out on defense.”
Kroll noted Titterington had about five opportunities for goals offensively as well.
“He’s been stuck in a defensive mindset for four years,” Kroll said, adding that Titterington’s lone goal came as a freshman during a junior varsity contest.
Kroll also credited two other Chieftains with good performances.
“Shane Starcher stepped up and played a great game for us,” Kroll said. “He had several solid minutes. John Lean probably had the best game of his life last night.”
Playing in the new LHS stadium, which has artificial turf, the Chieftains played on a synthetic surface for the first time this season.
Kroll said the field was dry, making it more similar to a grass field, though it is a faster game on turf.
“Once moisture gets introduced, it completely changes complexity of the game,” he said.
Next up for THS is the postseason, which likely will start with a home game Tuesday.
Kroll said he hopes the Leavenworth game serves as a wake-up call for the Chieftains.
“I’m curious to see which team shows up,” Kroll said. “We’ve been so incredibly inconsistent as far as who's going to show up at this game and that game.
“If all of us can get on the same page and show up at same time, I truly don’t think there’s a team out there that can completely dominate us.”
Seedings for the Class 4-1A regional will be determined Saturday afternoon. Check back this weekend to The Mirror online to find out what team THS will face.