Rested Tonganoxie soccer aggressive in 4-0 ‘W’
A week off in the schedule didn’t slow Tonganoxie High’s boys soccer team down. In fact, it seemed to do the Chieftains good.
Playing for the first time in seven days, THS put on one of its top performances of the season and shut out visiting Perry-Lecompton, 4-0, on Monday.
According to senior captain Matt Briggs, Tonganoxie’s players enjoyed a respite on the calendar, because it allowed them to practice without stressing about an upcoming match. Instead, they were thinking about how much running or how many push-ups they would have to do.
The stretch of consecutive practices also allowed coach Brian Kroll to tinker with the THS lineup. With a week off to prepare, senior captain Marcus Titterington noted, the players had time to work on different roles.
“It was definitely a good thing,” Titterington said of the break, “because not only did we get to rest a little bit, we got to put some stuff together, get some new looks we hadn’t seen before.”
Titterington said even the players weren’t sure exactly what the new lineup would look like Monday, but they were pleased when Kroll moved Briggs and Tyler Bartholomew up top and shifted defenders Titterington and Zack Tallent up to the midfield.
“That was a good thing,” Titterington said. “It kind of loaded the top so we had more options.”
And it immediately paid off in the form of goals. In the 18th minute, Tonganoxie took a 1-0 lead after Matt Saathoff passed the ball to Briggs deep in the box. The senior forward put the PLHS goalkeeper off balance with a quick move, then fired it left of the goalie from about four yards out.
It was just one of 10 first-half shots the Chieftains (5-4-1) took, and their coach was pleased to see them aggressively looking for scoring chances.
“I was happy with the way we didn’t wait or hesitate and looked to attack immediately and put into effect everything we’ve been working on since the start of the season,” Kroll said. “The possessions and the transitions and everything, it was awesome.”
A 1-0 halftime lead quadrupled to 4-0 in a hurry in the first 12 minutes of the second half as THS got even more aggressive with its shots.
Briggs scored his second goal of the match in the 44th minute by getting his head on a fifty-fifty ball lofted high in the box. Briggs bounced it off his noggin and into the left side of the net to put THS up 2-0.
It was only 55 seconds later when Tonganoxie struck again. This time Evan Stilgenbauer found Bartholomew in traffic and the senior put the ball over the keeper’s right shoulder.
In the 52nd minute, Titterington directed a great cross from the left side to Saathoff, who was running toward the right post. Saathoff banged it high off the bottom of the cross bar and the ball ricocheted in to give the Chieftains a 4-0 advantage.
Though THS didn’t score in the final 28 minutes, it did not let up with its attack. Tonganoxie shot 15 more times to finish with 19 second-half shots, and the vast majority of them were quality looks. Briggs said Kroll has been a broken record when it comes to capitalizing on open looks.
“Coach had been telling us, you know, ‘Shoot the ball. You’re open,’” the senior captain related. “Eventually, when you’ve pounded it in our heads enough, we’ll be like, ‘Oh, I’m open. I’ll shoot the ball.’”
Kroll was glad the players finally followed his requests.
“I’ve been stressing: Take the shots. Because you can’t score if you don’t shoot,” the coach said. “Rather than let’s wait for the perfect touch and the perfect hit opportunity, let’s just take the shot and see what happens with it.”
Briggs, Bartholomew and Saathoff, obviously couldn’t take all the shots. Stilgenbauer, Titterington, Zack Tallent and Dylan Olson also found open looks.
THS junior goalkeeper Keaton Truesdell didn’t see nearly as many shots come his way in the shutout victory, the team’s fifth of the season, but he turned away the few that did, finishing with three saves.
At 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Tonganoxie plays at Basehor-Linwood.