Tom Smart, Deseret News
The Manti boys soccer team is excited to see St. Joseph again.
Templars coach Gerald Wayman, whose team will host St. Joseph in the first round of the 2A state tournament Wednesday afternoon, is certain the Jayhawks are hungry for the meeting too.
"We have kicked them out of the tournament two years in a row," he said. "We're going to make it three."
In 2012, Manti beat the Jayhawks in the title match. In 2013, the Templars edged St. Joseph in a shootout in the semifinals before ultimately falling to American Leadership Academy in the title game.
"I have a handful of kids who played in that game," Wayman said, "and have worked hard all year to get another chance."
"Alvaro is a hard-nosed player who will kill himself to try and make a goal," Wayman said, noting that Cardenas has scored 13 goals for the Templars this season.
"Juan has incredible skills; I am amazed every time I see him make a play," the coach said of Frutos, who has a team-high 18 goals. "And Manny, he is solid, very calm and cool. He influences the whole team positively all the time."
This year, with Cardenas, Frutos and Vega in control and the second-place finish at the forefront of their minds, the top-seeded and second-ranked Templars look to best the familiar foe in the opening round before advancing to the quarterfinals and beyond.
"Our No. 1 goal was to get a top seed," Wayman said. "Now that we've done that, we are looking for four more wins."
Manti, a public school in the 2A Central region, could potentially play Waterford, a private Salt Lake City school and the No. 1 seed from 2A North, in the semifinals.
"We've knocked out Waterford a few times too," Wayman said. "We are in the same bracket as a few teams that have grudges with us. We are anxious to prove — again — that we can beat these teams."
The Templars' only loss this year was a 2-0 defeat in the regular-season finale at the hands of Wasatch Academy. The Tigers split the region title with Manti as Wayman's team defeated the Mount Pleasant-based private school, 2-1, just a week before.
Wasatch Academy will open the tournament hosting the third-place team from the North, either Layton Christian Academy or Rowland Hall. Waterford and goalkeeper Ross Merrell, who has a state-best nine shutouts, host Gunnison, No. 4 from the Central region.
Mahonry Chichia, the top goalscorer in the state with 41 in 14 matches, will lead the defending champion ALA Eagles against Beaver. ALA earned the top seed in the 2A West and the Beavers are fourth in the 2A South. Parowan, which split the 2A South region title with Delta, enters the tournament as the top seed for a meeting with Intermountain Christian, the No. 4 team from the West.
Unlike 2A, the 3A boys soccer state tournament has a much different landscape this season. In fact, of the four teams that made it to the semifinals in 2013 — Desert Hills, Ogden, Park City and Wasatch — just one — Park City — is even in the state tournament this year.
A season after Wasatch rolled through the year undefeated en route to the championship, the Wasps have vacated the classification and left an opening for another squad to take over. Ogden also moved to 4A, while the Thunder failed to make the cut in a competitive Region 9.
The Miners enter the tournament as the No. 2 seed from Region 10. Although they split their league games with Juan Diego, a draw against Morgan pushed them into second place and pitted them against North Sanpete, No. 3 from Region 12, in the opening round on Thursday.