East girls soccer coach Dylan Gruntzel hasn’t had much to criticize his team about during its 12-game unbeaten streak.
But if there is one thing he feels like his team will need to do a better job of in its Class 6A quarterfinal match against Manhattan at 5 p.m. Tuesday, it’s scoring.
“I feel like we’ve created a lot of opportunities this year, but if we have a weakness it’s not finishing quality opportunities,” Gruntzel said. “I know in our last game we had four or five chances where we’re within 12 yards and we hit it right at the goalie or we hit the crossbar or we hit it wide. So that’s our biggest focus because we know we’re not going to have as many opportunities against Manhattan.”
Manhattan (14-3) enters with a long winning streak of its own (nine games), which includes a 6-2 victory over Northwest — the team East defeated 4-1 Friday to advance to the quarterfinals. The Blue Aces are making their first appearance in the quarterfinals since 2006.
Gruntzel hopes the chemistry built during this season will help East in its biggest game of the season.
“These girls really enjoy playing with one another,” Gruntzel said. “They’re all very competitive and they enjoy hanging out with each other on and off the field. And I think we’re really deep, as well. I have probably 18 kids I feel really confident playing and that pays off this time of the year.”
East is unbeaten (15-0-1) when it scores at least two goals, while Manhattan has 11 shutouts this season.
“We’ve always had the talent in the past, but everything has really come together for us this year,” sophomore defender Brynn Walker said. “We have a good bond on the field and we’re able to win a lot of games that way. We’re hoping we can win one more on Tuesday.”
Other Wichita-area quarterfinals:
5A: Kapaun Mt. Carmel (12-5-1) at Bishop Carroll (16-2), 6 p.m. — Carroll won its first 10 games before suffering setbacks against Washburn Rural and Maize, both 2-1 defeats, which gives Kapaun some hope that an upset is possible. The Crusaders captured similar magic in last year’s postseason, riding the wave of momentum all the way to the 5A championship game. All 11 starters returned from that squad and although Kapaun didn’t capitalize like it wanted to in the regular season, it is back in the quarterfinals with a chance to go back to state. Kapaun’s issue all season has been finishing, as it has been shutout or held to one goal in 10 games this season. Meanwhile, Carroll’s defense, spearheaded by Maguire Sullivan, has earned 14 shutouts and Hanleigh Allen has exploded in her junior season for 30-plus goals. This will be a rematch of a game on April 27 which Carroll won 1-0.
5A: Maize (14-3) at Newton (15-2), 6 p.m. — After a heartbreaking loss in overtime in last year’s quarterfinal match, Newton’s senior core of Brookelynn Entz, Aylin Torres, Megan Akers, and Bekah Tonn will try to send the Railers to the final four. This time the Railers have even more incentive, as the state tournament will be played in Newton. Entz is closing in on another 40-goal campaign and will be the most dangerous player on the field, but Maize has seemingly regained its swagger after three early-season losses. The Eagles have won nine straight, including a 6-1 thrashing of Newton two weeks ago with the league championship on the line. Maize’s offense has been unstoppable since a formation change midway through the season, which has made MaKayla Toth (chasing another 50-goal season), Katie Krier, Liz Palmer, Cammie Davis, and Bailey Stedman a force.
4-1A: Trinity Academy (7-9) at Maize South (16-1-1), 6 p.m. — Maize South won its fourth straight regional championship last week and now seeks its first trip to the final four after moving down to 4-1A this season. The Mavericks are ranked No. 1 by the coaches after a dominant season playing mostly 6A and 5A schools, as they outscored opponents 74-5. Meanwhile, tradition-rich Trinity struggled through a disappointing regular season with virtually an entirely new lineup after playing for the 4-1A championship last season. But the Knights’ past experience came in handy in seeding upsets over Andover Central and Mulvane to win their eighth straight regional championship. Maize South has playmakers at every level with Gaby Crowell (forward), Hayden Burnett (midfielder), and defender (Avery Green), while Trinity has one of the area’s top players in midfielder Ally Henderson, who has signed with Baylor. This will be a rematch of a regular-season match where Maize South won 10-0 and envoked the mercy rule on April 13.
4-1A: Thomas More Prep (12-4-1) at McPherson (15-3), 6 p.m. — McPherson has won its last eight games to return to yet another quarterfinal game, as it is playing with virtually the same 11 players that took third at the state tournament last season. McPherson’s attack is generated by Aislinn Hughes, Alayna Wallace, Claire Hedlund, and Jessie Kynaston, who have all scored at least 13 goals this season. The Bullpups are 12-0 in games this season where they allow one or fewer goals.