Maranatha soccer improves despite loss to Topeka Seaman
Eagles start strong, draw closer to goal of playing full game ‘Maranatha style’
The Maranatha Academy boys soccer team lost a hard-fought match to Seaman High School, 2-0, Saturday in Topeka.
But the score only tells part of the story. Maranatha’s opponent was the third-ranked team in Class 5A while the Eagles play in Class 4-1A but have the enrollment of a 2A school.
In addition, the Vikings did not score until 11 minutes were left in the game — evidence that Maranatha was more than a match defensively for its much larger opponent. The Eagles were also without the services of starting midfielder Luke Miller, who was representing the Maranatha boys cross country team at the Rim Rock Farm Cross Country Classic in Lawrence.
Taking all those facts into consideration, the Eagles’ performance against Seaman gives a good indication of just how far the 5-2 Maranatha squad has come this season.
“Developmental-wise, I feel like we’ve seen what we can be,” first-year coach Matt Gordon said. “In our first game we played about 10 minutes of what I call ‘Maranatha style’ soccer and we got one of our easiest goals of the season. I told the guys after that game that we need to be that style of team for 80-100 minutes. Right now we’re about a 40-minute team.”
The Eagles opened the season with a 1-0 win over a solid Basehor-Linwood team, then lost a 1-0 heartbreaker to Barstow (Mo.) Academy in which Barstow scored off of a corner kick with 25 seconds remaining.
The Eagles followed that up with four straight wins, including 2-0 against Immaculata, a nail-biter against Lee’s Summit (Mo.) Christian in which Maranatha claimed the win on a 4-2 penalty kick in overtime, and a 2-0 shutout of Van Horn (Mo.).
Offensively, Maranatha has been led by junior forward Conner Emberlin, who is third in the state of Kansas with eight goals through seven games. Emberlin — who played in the shadows of All-Staters Taylor Lemmon as a freshman and Mitch Heller as a sophomore — is coming into his own in 2011 and has been earning multitudes of chances at the net.
The Eagles have been aided defensively by first-time senior goalkeeper Robbie Thomas. At 6-foot-4, Thomas’ wingspan has been impressive between the posts and paid huge dividends in the Eagles’ win against Lee’s Summit Christian.
The matchup against Seaman brought the Eagles closer to their goal of more consecutive minutes of successful play. With games this weekend against Christ Prep and Heritage Christian Academy at the Autumnfest Soccer Tournament at Rockhurst University, Gordon is envisioning his players inching even closer to a full 80 minutes.
“I see us progressing to that 80-minute mark in the next two games,” Gordon said. “We need to go into that killer mindset. We haven’t realized that as a team yet. Can we beat a team 10-0 that we should beat 10-0? I’ve been on the other side of that and it’s no fun, but we’ve got to find our killer instinct, and that’s a hard thing to teach.
“I’m really excited about this week.”
The Eagles should be boosted this week by the return of junior forward Caleb Henderson, who has been out all season with a fractured hip. Gordon has plans to move Henderson into the midfield to take advantage of his strength and touch. Gordon is looking forward to a passing/scoring combination of Henderson-Miller-Emberlin.
“Caleb is a brute who has developed into one of the premiere touch passers in the area,” Gordon said. “Every ball should go through Luke Miller on offense, and then Conner has become our focal point on offense. I will always take Conner Emberlin on two defenders. That’s an advantage for Conner.”