Indians fall to Manchester in season opener

On paper, the Mississinewa Indians boast one of the most talented lineups in Grant County – a group that is generally stellar with ball control and possession. 

However, in their season opener against Manchester, the Indians uncharacteristically struggled in both of those areas, and the Squires took advantage. 

The Indians’ sloppy play, combined with several missed opportunities, proved costly as Mississinewa fell to Manchester by a score of 4-1. 

“It definitely wasn’t the team that should have been out here,” Mississinewa Head Coach Andrea Wilson said. “It took us a while to get going, and I don’t know why. I could even tell in warmups they were a little slow. We got beat on effort tonight.”

Known for their physicality, the Squires put bodies on the Indians’ top players, throwing them out of their rhythm. Mississinewa eventually started to create more scoring chances as the match progressed, but the Squires definitively set the tone with their visceral style of play.  

“Every year we play them, they are always very physical,” Wilson said. “We struggle to start a season with a team that is physical for some reason. It takes us a while to get into that. They were so physical, and we kind of cowered to it. We started backing off the balls instead of going for 50-50 balls. We were letting them have it and then trying to get it from them.

“I thought we did a little better in the second half, but at that point, their energy was better.” 

After an even start, the Squires began to dominate possession and create pressure on Mississinewa’s defense consistently after the first 10 minutes. 

Indians’ goalkeeper Savannah Herrera stood tall early, making three saves, including two at point blank range, but Manchester senior Emma Garriott was able to break the scoreless tie with 23:06 remaining in the first half, sliding one past Herrera for a 1-0 Squires’ advantage.

Mississinewa certainly had their chances in the latter stages of the first half, but they could not capitalize. In a 10-minute span, the Indians failed to score on three breakaways, as two shots went wide, and another went right into the waiting arms of Manchester goalkeeper Kindra Stetzel.

Those failed chances ended up being the turning point of the contest. 

“They got in their own heads, and they kind of beat themselves,” Wilson said. “If we had capitalized on those three chances, I think our effort would have been totally different.”

Mississinewa finally found twine with 5:17 remaining in the opening half as Luchetti scored off a rebound in front of the goal, but Garriott broke the 1-1 tie just a minute and 28 seconds later, giving the Squires a lead they would not relinquish. 

The Indians’ struggles continued in the second half, as Manchester kept Mississinewa from possessing the ball for extended periods of time. 

Manhcester iced the game in the final 20 minutes, scoring a pair of goals just 3:50 apart. Garriott completed her hat trick on a breakaway with 21:11 remaining, and Beletu Stout capped off the Squires’ scoring with just over 17 minutes left on the clock. 

While a loss is never the desired outcome, the major concern for the Indians going forward is the health of senior striker Alayna Webb. With 16:41 left in the contest, Webb collided with a Manchester defender and fell to the ground, grabbing her knee and writhing in pain. She eventually had to be carried off the field. 

Wilson stated that Webb felt her kneecap move. However, after being looked over by the training staff, there did not seem to be any sort of ligament damage and she hopes to have her back in the lineup sooner rather than later. 

“She is probably going to need a brace and some time to heal,” Wilson said. “Hopefully by Saturday she will be back. She had a pretty serious knee injury a couple of years ago, so it scares her. Sometimes, that just gets in your head.”

But for now, Wilson and the Indians will head back to the drawing board.  

“We were not touching the ball well,” Wilson said. “Our skill players that always trap the ball well – they were just rough tonight, which is not really like us. I don’t know if it was first game jitters or what, but it needs to be a lot better.” 

Mississinewa outshot Manchester 16-10 in the match, which included a 10-6 in shots on frame. Stetzel stole the show for the Squires, making nine saves.

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