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Watch the Championship Games right here!

We have used the South Dakota Public Broadcasting embed code to allow you to stream games right on Soccer605 – on a special page with a larger viewer! This should

Titles on the line – some soccer insiders talk about it.

Turn up the heat!

SDHSAA Soccer Semi-Final matches offer great battles across South Dakota. The teams are through the quarterfinals and there were some surprises, with four higher seeds being eliminated in the first

South Dakota High School Soccer Post-Season Play Starts Tonight!

For six long/short weeks, they’ve all been working toward tonight – and it has finally arrived for 28 of the 51 teams. It’s “World Cup” time of South Dakota High

Playoff time and a dozen teams will end seasons Tuesday.

There was a lot of disappointment flowing around the state last weekend as several teams fought for and won playoff positions and others came up short.  Twenty-four teams clash Tuesday

Watch the Championship Games right here!

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This should be optimal for your Smartphone and is One-Click Access!  Thanks to SDPB and their sponsors for the embed code!

Championship Day

Titles on the line – some soccer insiders talk about it.

Turn up the heat!

SDHSAA Soccer Semi-Final matches offer great battles across South Dakota.

The teams are through the quarterfinals and there were some surprises, with four higher seeds being eliminated in the first round of play-offs.  Saturday’s high school soccer action across South Dakota should put some very competitive sides head-to-head in the semi-finals, on the Road to Mitchell.  Let’s take a look at the matchups.

A Girls Semi-Finals 

Vermillion at St. Thomas More

Vermillion showed on Groton Area’s home field that they can put goals on the board.  Coach Shannon Fitzsimmons has brought a new energy to the program this year and the team gets stronger each week.  St. Thomas More have had a week and a half to rest and prepare for their semifinal match.  STM coach Doug Noyes knows the perils of having the highest ranked and dominant team in the state from years of experience.

The two teams have not met in the 2014 season.

Keys in the match:

Vermillion will have to find matchups in a lot of areas of the field.  In the middle, Tanager junior Autumn Barnett will be squared off against quick, crafty senior KJ Medler.  This should be a great matchup because Barnett has such an insightful first touch that keeps her out of trouble most of the time, while Medler has a quick deliver to team mates like senior forward Ashley Peterson, who just know they can go forward when Medler has the ball because she completes such a high percentage of her passes.

STM’s Ashley Peterson could be the state’s strongest A Division attacking player.  She is flat-out fierce on the field and will give the Vermillion defenders and keeper lots of fits.  But STM’s defense will have to be on full alert, too, with the Tanagers’ attacker junior Natasha Smudzi, a speedy forward with deadly finishing accuracy.

Both teams like to bring players forward and STM’s senior Avery White and Vermillion’s Tori Gregoire could make a big difference in that regard.

Tea Area at Belle Fourche

With probably the youngest team left in the SDHSAA playoffs, coach Mark Anderson of Tea Area must be completely satisfied with his team’s performance over the 2014 season.  But he won’t tell that to his team just yet.  They have a big chore in front of them against a mature, tough Belle Fourche side on Saturday.

The teams have not met each other in the 2014 season.

Second-year program Tea Area have excellent team leadership in the three seniors – provider Kaylee Anderson and defenders Kennady Cahoy and Katie Underberg.  And without a junior in the team, sophomore Karlee McKinney and speedy freshman Mikayla Wevik make up much of the Titans’ attack.

On the other side of the ball, Belle Fourche have a team that’s been relevant for several years, making state final appearances in the last two years in the non-sanctioned class.  Having narrowly lost to West Central last year, they have the cup on their mind.  The Broncs have solid talent at almost every position.  Senior midfielder Bailee Ward was moved into the middle last year from defender.  And this year, just as last, the Broncs’ attack improved as she could serve balls through and over defenses for junior forward Jessica Ryan to run on to. Sophomore keeper Hannah Rehmeier is already maturing and has made the most of her learning opportunities as starting GK for the team since she was an eighth grader.

Keys in the match:

Tea Area must do everything they can to stop Bailee Ward’s service up to Jessica Ryan and Ward’s long, accurate shots.  She literally can pull the trigger from forty and drop it in the frame.

The Belle Fourche defense need to put on their running shoes to keep up with Karlee McKinney and Mikayla Wevik.  The Broncs’ physical style of play will be a huge advantage over the young Titans if the center lets them play that way.

A Boys Semi-Finals

Hot Springs at Sioux Falls Christian

The Bison are one of those teams that improved week after week during the regular season and it has really paid off for them at the end.  Now they get the task of going in to Sioux Falls Christian’s home field and playing what could easily be one of South Dakota’s best boys teams in any division.

The Bison are a young team, and to our knowledge are the last co-ed team playing at the high school level.  This has produced some very good girl players over the years and this year, senior Darci Rogers at back is one to watch.  She has competed against boys her entire career and can handle herself in any situation.  And with the Chargers’ hard-running junior forward Paul Eide and super mid Lee Wynja to contend with, it could be Rogers’ and her team mates’ most challenging match ever.  Sioux Falls Christian can come at you from a lot of directions.

Hot Springs have a legitimate goal scorer in Ty Wynia, who has 15 goals on the regular season and has consistently been among the top in the A division. They also have a slick, intelligent freshman in Carson Gehman who has become a very productive player.  But against the Chargers’ large and mature back line and senior GK Matt Scott, who has had 9 shutouts and allowed just 3 goals in 12 regular season games, it is going to be difficult for the Bison to get in without a total team effort.

Keys in the match:

For Hot Springs, it will be about sorting out Sioux Falls Christian’s attack.  With mature, experienced players who know how to slice up defenses with good passing and intelligent runs, the Chargers have given every one of their opponents big headaches.  On attack, the Bison need to come forward as a team and try to take care of the ball when they have it.

James Valley Christian at Groton Area

These teams met only last week at the Groton field and the match ended in a 1-0 James Valley Christian win.  Earlier in the year, Groton Area beat JVC at Huron 1-0.  So the cumulative score stands at 1-1 for the year and one team must emerge.  Given the way both sides are playing, this will be an exciting and challenging match.

JVC are getting scoring from a lot of players, but it seems that junior Tim Wager has had a hand in many of them, either scoring or assisting.  Senior keeper Kellen Hood has been very steady in goal.  Groton Area have a good keeper in their own right with senior Chance Strom.  The Tigers have a group of talented seniors – Luke Sternhagen, Rayce Harder, Jacob Milbrandt and Landon Larson to name a few -who have all stepped up when needed.

Keys in the match:

Groton area will have to get players back to defend in packs as JVC like to move forward as a team.  Strom will have to come up with some saves to boost his team.  JVC will have to continue to defend as a pack to counter the Tigers’ multi-faceted attack.

AA Girls Semi-Finals

Pierre at Sioux Falls Lincoln

Lincoln coach Steve Burkhalter has a system in place and it’s clearly paid off for his team – particularly in the final third of the season.  The only thing lacking in the Lincoln scheme was prolific goal scoring, but the Patriots found that Tuesday against Rapid City Central, scoring four goals.  The Patriots hard-working senior forward Madeline Kelly scored and produced opportunities for her team mates.  And senior GK Maggie Smither made important saves and even lofted one in from very long range on a free kick.

Across the field, the Pierre Lady Govs may have stunned Rapid City Stevens at Rapid City Tuesday, but most soccer observers were not overly-surprised by the result.  Rapid City Stevens are a good team – that’s for sure, but the Lady Govs are built on work and physical play.  And they have super-senior Caelie Williams, with 15 goals in the regular season, who scored both goals against Yankton to get her team in the final eight and then the lone goal in Tuesday’s match.  Hard-running Nikky Farnsworth keeps defenses on their heels, scoring 13 goals this season, and creating lots of opportunities for her team.

Keys in the match:

Pierre’s usual GK Kayla Rounds sustained a back injury Tuesday in her first match back after being injured against Aberdeen Central on September 12th.  We don’t know what Rounds’ status is for this match, but freshman GK Mackenzie Rath has done an exemplary job in goal.  It doesn’t matter which player is in goal, they are going to have to be in their best form to hold off Kelly and crew.

Lincoln’s junior mid Julie Teslow will have her hands full with Caelie Williams, but could have the physical strength to deal with her.  But will she have the fitness level it takes to deal with that kind of pressure for an entire match?  We’ll see.  Lincoln’s back line has become more and more organized over the season and it will be interesting to see the matchups between Lincoln’s senior center back Katie Gillette and Pierre’s Farnsworth.

For Pierre – keep track of Madeline Kelly and watch out for the many Lincoln midfielders who come with her on attacks.  Defensive organization and good GK play will be essential.

For Lincoln – spend whatever resources needed to neutralize Caelie Williams and not let Nikky Farnsworth get behind them.  Smither will have to make some saves because Pierre generates more chances than probably any other girls side in the state.

Sioux Falls Washington at Sioux Falls O’Gorman

Washington did one of the hardest things in AA Girls soccer this week and that was to travel to Aberdeen and take on one of the best teams in the state on their hard artificial turf.  Oh, and the blustery weather so prevalent in the Hub City this time of year.  The day was reminiscent of the last two state sanctioned tournaments there, where strong south winds had a big impact on every match.

Despite the environment, the very strong opponent and a prevailing mentality that Aberdeen Central would go through, the Lady Warriors organized themselves to hold off Aberdeen Central in the first half with the wind advantage – even at times connecting well enough into the wind to create some chances.  Once Washington got the wind, it didn’t take them long to go up 1-0 and they held on to that lead.

Sioux Falls O’Gorman faced Sioux Falls Roosevelt at home this time and the game was a real war.  Even though Roosevelt was missing two outstanding juniors – GK Tomeka Anderson and attacking midfielder Grace Behm due to injuries – plus the ever-dangerous senior forward Gemini Wesley,   the team stepped up and played like they intended to beat higher-seeded O’Gorman on their own turf.  And they almost did just that, thanks to the efforts of the Riders’ leading goalscorer, junior midfielder Sarah Lund and crew. But sophomore GK Olivia Surrell made saves on several shots that could just as easily gone in.

In the end, it was the typical pressure that O’Gorman puts on opponents that gave them the win – the relentless, hard running by junior forward Alyssa Weidler, with team mates joining in the attack.  Ultimately, sophomore Theresa Pujado did what she does best in making the winning goal.  Although Pujado’s role in the team has changed this year, she still has that innate ability to know exactly when to be available when it matters most.

Keys in the match:

For Washington – they will have to get a big game out of their junior super-mid Morgan Moe.   They will need to use their speed up top and try to get O’Gorman’s junior center back Molly Doetzel out of the central channel and serve the ball in to that void.

For O’Gorman – just keep doing what they have done all year.  Attack down the wings with Alyssa Weidler with team mates making the trip to get on the end of crosses or parries.  Theresa Pujado’s work in the middle will be very important to the Lady Knights, as Washington have done a great job owning the middle of the park in the last third of the season.

AA Boys Semi-Finals

Yankton at Sioux Falls Lincoln

These teams have a history of highly-competitive matches against each other.  During the regular season, Yankton have been able to contain the Patriots, but during the post-season, no team has been more effective than Sioux Falls Lincoln.  In fact, the Patriots’ expectation every year is to hoist the cup at the end.

This year’s Lincoln team is constructed much like past teams, with good resources on each line.  In the back Ceasar Cuellar does a great job running down attackers and getting counterattacks started.  Midfielder Jamal Awadallah is a smooth player who can be a provider or scorer.  Senior forward Teren Schuster has been a scoring – and assisting – sensation who made it look easy scoring two against Spearfish Tuesday.

Yankton have been one of the more organized sides in the state under coach Warren Brenner.  This year, without the prevalence of the stars they had last year, the team have had to take advantage of balance and superior teamwork.  The Bucks do have a top goal scorer in sophomore Cole Lewno and if can shake loose he will score.  Senior center mid John Dannenbring brings a great sense of order to the middle of the park and is much the heart of the Bucks.  The team have had to do what they can to protect their keeper, who will probably remain freshman Trevor Rafferty.

Keys in the match:

For Yankton – whatever the Patriots do will not surprise Brenner.  The two sides have played so many matches against each other that the styles are well known.  But year after year, the people inside the shirts change and this year is no different.  Of course, the Bucks will have to keep a close eye on Cuellar –  on his deadly free kicks and when he comes out of the back to help on attack.  They need to counter when this happens.  In the midfield, try their best to cut off service from Awadallah – and especially to Schuster.  And when Schuster gets the ball, defend him well by just staying in his way.  When defenders decide they’re going to participate in Shuster’s dribbling antics, there is usually a Lincoln goal just after.  And watch for Lincoln’s superior scheme on corners.  They bring a lot of bodies forward and are particularly dangerous in that mode.

For Lincoln – try to not let Yankton frustrate them with their possession.  When Yankton shortened the game up against Pierre they became very effective and were able to move options up to get shots on the end of Dannenbring’s distribution forward.  Offensively, Lincoln need to just do what they have done so well for so long.  The same scheme has worked for them for years and there is no reason to fix something that is not broken.

Rapid City Stevens at Sioux Falls Roosevelt

This match has the potential to be one of the best high school matchups ever.  These two sides met in the semifinals of the non-sanctioned tournament last year and the game went in to overtime.  And though some of the personnel have changed, the cores of each team remain.  For Roosevelt, senior midfielder Johnny Clark is still running the show, even though he has to do much more than last year.  Scoring phenom senior Kolby Scott has been on a mission this year, scoring lots of goals, but also running back to help when other teams possess against the Rough Riders.  Roosevelt’s sophomore keeper Taylor Moyer has grown leaps and bounds during the season and has kept several clean sheets this year, including a real nail-biter against Lincoln only two weeks ago.

Rapid City Stevens have taken the progress they made under their last coach and have advanced impressively over the season.  First-year coach Jacob Meyer, a U of Mary player, has brought that college intensity and drive to the high school level in Rapid City.  Stevens’ biggest challenge early was against Lincoln on opening weekend, which ended in a 1-1 draw.  Next, the Raiders were fooled by a couple cheeky set pieces at Aberdeen and left Swisher with a 0-2 loss, which they avenged Tuesday at home with a convincing 6-1 drubbing.  The Raiders like to get forward and score, evidenced by the fact that four of the top ten points men in the state are on the roster, including the dangerous top points man Brennan Lytle.  And much has to be said about the senior core there – Derek Beaumont, who could have the best soccer brain in the state, Austin Shone, Rick Schleusener and Noah Storm who all play a free style of attacking soccer with big smiles on their faces.

Keys in the match:

For Stevens – they have to have great respect for the Roosevelt attack, which has Kolby Scott as the point of the spear, but which also features the dynamic David Irakoze also on attacks that are often started by senior midfielder Johnny Clark’s work.  GK Ashton Culey will have to be on his toes whenever junior free kick specialist Isaiah Bowar is over the ball – he is deadly.  As far as the attack goes, they just need to keep doing what they do – go forward with joy and play for each other.

For Roosevelt – they have to hold together defensively.  Tuesday night against Washington in the quarterfinals, the Rough Riders showed great character in overcoming an early deficit to finally roll over the Warriors.  But if Roosevelt let Stevens in early, the scenario will be different, simply because the Raiders’ personnel match up stronger across the field.  Kolby Scott will have his greatest challenge of the year against four guys who actually want him, particularly the rough and ready Jacob Nunez, who enjoys a one-on-one battle more than anyone.  Clark and Irakoze will be important factors in the game – especially if Stevens pay too much attention to Scott.

Ready for Great High School Soccer Action!

We are prepared to cover the best weekend of soccer ever in South Dakota and are lucky to have volunteer crews all across the state to bring the games and interviews to you.

Players – please remember that youngsters are watching you play, and they will act just as their heroes act.  So please teach them to act with honor at ALL times.

The rest of us – let’s please remember that everyone involved in the game – players, coaches and officials – are doing their level best.  But they are not going to be perfect.  Understand and respect that.

And if you’re the kind of fan who needs to loudly voice their opinion, please muzzle yourself.  Only one person – you – enjoys the sound of that belligerent voice.  Being “that kind of fan” degrades everything about the game.

Most of all, ENJOY the games.  We’ll have everything we can get to you as the games progress, with highlights, interviews and all of the other Soccer605 stuff as soon as we can!

South Dakota High School Soccer Post-Season Play Starts Tonight!

the road to mitchellFor six long/short weeks, they’ve all been working toward tonight – and it has finally arrived for 28 of the 51 teams. It’s “World Cup” time of South Dakota High School Soccer – and every team is chanting “I believe that we will win!”

If there are any soccer matches more exciting than those in the High School Soccer Season, it would have to be the games of the POSTSEASON! It’s win-or-be-done, and every minute of play, every touch of the ball counts, as teams continue to battle on the Road to Mitchell!  The first of the postseason games – the 12 quarterfinal matches – start this afternoon all across South Dakota. And we are all in for some great games!

ABERDEEN – At 4 pm CT #2 Aberdeen Central Golden Eagles host #7 Sioux Falls Washington Warriors in the 1st Girls AA Playoff Game – SWISHER FIELD! Can’t make the game? We’ll be watching as long as we can LIVE online courtesy of ESPN Aberdeen and Hub City Radio Sports webcast on HighSchoolCube! Winner will advance to a semi-final that will also be decided tonight.

RAPID CITY – At 3:30 pm MT #4 Rapid City Stevens Raiders host #5 Aberdeen Central Golden Eagles in the 1st Boys AA Playoff Game. The 4 vs 5 playoff games are always exciting and this one promises to go far beyond! Last time the Raiders and Eagles met was in Aberdeen, with the Eagles prevailing 2-0 in the Raiders only loss of the season. Match will be at Sioux Park – most likely the Stadium or Noordermeer – and the winner will advance to a semi-final with a to-be-determined opponent and location.

Then at 5 pm MT Top-Seed Rapid City Stevens Raiders will host #8 Pierre Lady Govs in the second of four Girls AA Playoff Games.  Despite the difference in their standings, the teams had a close-fought battle when they met early in the season in Pierre. The Raiders narrowly won that one, 2-1. Game is at Sioux Park – again, most likely the Stadium or Noordemeer. Winner will advance to semi-finals on Saturday, October 4 against an opponent and location to be determined tonight.

GROTON – At 4 pm CT #4 Groton Area Tigers will host #5 Vermillion Tanagers in the first of two Girls A Playoff Games this evening. The match will be on Groton HS Field. Winner will advance to a semifinal on Saturday, October 4 in Rapid City against Top-Seed St. Thomas More, who earned a bye in the quarterfinals.

HURON – Also at 4 pm CT, #3 James Valley Christian Vikings will host #6 St. Thomas More Cavaliers at the James Valley Christian Field in Huron for the first of two Boys A Playoff games today. Winner of the match will advance to a semifinal in Groton on Saturday, October 4 against #2 Groton Area Tigers. The Tigers earned a bye in the first round of playoffs.

SIOUX FALLS - There are FOUR SDHSAA soccer playoff games in Sioux Falls tonight. At 5 pm CT, #2 Sioux Falls Lincoln Patriots host #7 Spearfish Spartans at Yankton Trail Park for a chance to advance to the Boys AA Semifinal on Saturday, October 4. The second of four boys AA playoff games tonight, this will be the first match up for the Patriots and the Spartans in 2014 – and both teams seem eager for it.

Also at 5 pm CT, #4 Sioux Falls Lincoln Lady Pats will host #5 Rapid City Central Cobblers in the third of four girls AA playoff matches. Who doesn’t love a 4 vs 5 playoff game? This one has even more promise – the teams last met in the second game of the season for both. Lincoln was up 1-0, when the Cobblers came back with a goal late in the game to tie it up 1-1. Both teams are very eager for this rematch today at Yankton Trail Park.

The third boys AA quarterfinal – and the third playoff match of the day in Sioux Falls – will be at Yankton Trail Park as well, kicking off at 7 pm CT with Top-Seed Sioux Falls Roosevelt Roughriders hosting #8 Sioux Falls Washington Warriors. Don’t be fooled by the difference in their standings – when the Riders and the Warriors met earlier in the season, it was an epic battle that ended 3-2, Riders’ favor. No doubt the Warriors are looking forward to this second chance.

At 7 pm CT, #3 Sioux Falls O’Gorman Lady Knights will host #6 Sioux Falls Roosevelt Roughriders at McEneaney Field in the last of the girls AA quarterfinals. The teams have identical 9-2-1 records. Back at the beginning of the month, the Riders dealt the Lady Knights their first of just two losses on the season.  O’Gorman certainly want this game perhaps more than any other match they could have drawn – and they will be on their beloved Mac Field. As three-peat High School Club Champions (2011, 2012, 2013) the Riders undoubtedly feel they have something to prove – to themselves, if no one else.

TEA - The Tea Area Titans are one of 3 programs in the SDHSAA Soccer who earned the right to host playoff games. (Rapid City Stevens and Sioux Falls Lincoln are the others). At 5 pm CT, #4 Tea Area will host #5 Hot Springs Bison in the second of two Boys A playoff rounds today. The Titans and Bison did not meet during the regular season, but rest assured Hot Springs will want to make their long trip count! The match will probably be played in the new Tea Area Titan Stadium. Winner will advance to a semi-final in Sioux Falls on Saturday, October 4 against Top-Seed Sioux Falls Christian. As the #1 seed, the Chargers earned a bye in the first round of playoffs.

At 7 pm CT, #3 Tea Area Lady Titans will host #6 West Central Lady Trojans in the 2nd of two girls A playoff games today. The Lady Titans and Lady Trojans last met at Tea, in the season opener for both teams. Tea Area prevailed 1-0. No doubt that West Central is looking forward to this re-match and a shot at redemption. Winner of the match will travel to Belle Fourche to a semi-final with #2 Belle Fourche Lady Broncs, who earned a bye in the quarterfinals.

YANKTON – Kicking off at 6 pm CT, #3 Yankton Bucks host #6 Pierre Governors at Lewis & Park Soccer Complex in the final quarterfinal for Boys AA. This will be a rematch of the Bucks & Governors match last Friday. But that one was in Pierre, where Yankton won 4-2 in their final match of the regular season. Rest assured that the Govs want this one back – and the Yankton seniors are looking for a shot at one more state high school soccer championship!


Playoff time and a dozen teams will end seasons Tuesday.

There was a lot of disappointment flowing around the state last weekend as several teams fought for and won playoff positions and others came up short.  Twenty-four teams clash Tuesday to advance to the semifinals next Saturday and half of them will end their seasons that day.

Let’s take a look at the matchups.

A Girls

Top seeds St. Thomas More and Belle Fourche have bye weeks.  Belle Fourche showed their scrappy spirit against Rapid City Central Saturday coming from behind to lose by only a goal to the AA side.  St. Thomas More finished their season Tuesday night against Sturgis and will have a long break – almost two weeks – until their semifinal match on October 4th.

West Central at Tea Area

This is a rematch of an opening day battle which Tea Area won at home 1-0.  This will be a very competitive match as both teams have improved a lot since that first day.  West Central have finished off their season with close matches against AA Sioux Falls O’Gorman (0-1) and Sioux Falls Washington (0-2).  Tea Area finished off against several AA sides as well, and dropped a final game to Groton Area 3-4.

Keys to the match:

We expect this match to be a wide-open affair from opening kickoff.  If Tea Area can withstand the relentless running and physical play of West Central’s junior forward Ashley Eickman and her speedy fellow troublemaker Rachel Ely.  On the Tea Area side, look for direct play from senior Kaylee Anderson out of the middle of the park to scoring machine Karlee McKinney and the freshman speedster Mikayla Wevik, who may have the best flat-out running speed we’ve seen this year in A Girls division.

Vermillion at Groton Area

After having lost four of their first five games, Groton Area did not look to be a strong team this year.  But they started winning on the road – and had to – because they had only three home games this season.  In a complete reversal of fortunes, the Lady Tigers ended their season winning four of their last five games.  Vermillion and Groton Area have not met this year.  Vermillion have had mixed success against common opponents, so this could be another competitive match.  Vermillion finished with a close 0-2 loss against AA powerhouse Sioux Falls Roosevelt.

Keys to the match:

Vermillion have a new look and a new energy this year with first-year Coach Shannon Fitzsimmons taking the reins.  The Tanagers are a team that can hold the ball in the middle with crafty junior midfielder Autumn Barnett running the show.  They can attack with direct play to hard-running junior finisher Natasha Samudzi, or out of the back with senior defender Tori Gregoire making run after run forward, but will have to get past a defensive line anchored by Groton central defender Marlee Jones.  The Lady Tigers will be on their home field, which most opponents will say is a great advantage for them.  And they know how to score goals and win games – especially in the last half of the season.  If they can maintain the Emily Locke/McKenzie Menzia connection, that scoring trend should continue.

A Boys

Top ranked teams Sioux Falls Christian and Groton Area will rest until October 4th for their semifinal contests. Both teams finished on a high note, with Sioux Falls Christian dispatching AA Sioux Falls Washington 2-1 and Groton Area winning easily on the road over a very young Tea Area side 5-1.

St. Thomas More at James Valley Christian

St. Thomas More lost at home 0-5 to James Valley Christian in early September and have had mixed results since then.  With a very young team – only four seniors and twelve eighth and ninth graders, there have been struggles along the way.  But somehow, the Cavaliers have managed to win some matches, no doubt thanks to the consistent scoring of eighth grader Spencer Lund and sophomore scorer and assist leader Luke Julian.  On the other side of the field, James Valley Christian have a tradition of excellence and this year is no exception.  The team does have some good senior leadership in goalkeeper Kellen Hood, but is also buoyed by many younger players.  In fact, with only two seniors on the squad, the team have to depend a lot on several youngsters like freshman Ryan Wager and sophomore Caleb Hofer.  With seven juniors on the squad, including goal scorer Tim Wager, JVC is not only a team to contend with this year, but next year should really be a force in the A Boys division.

Keys to the match:

St. Thomas More will have to find a way to get balls behind JVC’s team defense and past their very athletic keeper Kellen Hood.  STM have a pure goal scorer in Lund and they will be looking for him.

For JVC, continue to play pure team soccer.  Of all the teams we have watched this year, the JVC side is probably the most connected team and this is the established soccer culture at James Valley Christian under veteran Coach Jory Wipf.

Hot Springs at Tea Area

These two sides did not meet during the regular season, so we don’t have a head-to-head history.  Looking at common opponents doesn’t help much, either.  Both teams beat Freeman Academy by four in August.  We’ll have to see how the long road trip affects the Bison, who are the only co-ed varsity side left in the state.

Keys to the match:

Tea Area will have to keep a close eye on senior forward Ty Wynia, who has scored a lot of goals on the year.  And while Hot Springs have six seniors in the side, it could be a close match around the field as Tea Area’s young underclassmen battle against players their own age.  One matchup we’re looking forward to is probably going to be the Bison’s slick ninth grader Carson Gehman against the Titans’ hard working eighth grader Colby Fechner.

AA Girls

Pierre at Rapid City Stevens

The Lady Govs must be a team that feel destiny is on their side.  Only a week ago, Harrisburg sent them packing and their future was very uncertain.  But thanks to a resurgence at home against higher-seeded Yankton, the Pierre girls found new life, beating the Gazelles 2-1 in a tense and not-too-tidy match.  On the other hand, the Lady Raiders came from behind to put a lot of pressure on Rapid City Central to tie their match 1-1, and then finish out strong against Spearfish.

Keys to the match:

Pierre will have to be the best organized they have been this year.  With a good freshman keeper – Mackenzie Rath – who has never seen this level of pressure, they will have to work to protect their end of the park.  If senior attacking midfielder Caelie Williams can shake loose for a goal and get some balls threaded through for junior Nikky Farnsworth to run on to, the Lady Raiders will have to focus more on defense than they have had to do for a while.  On the other side of the field, Stevens showed a lot of grit and energy after Rapid City Central scored first.  They gave the Lady Cobblers’ 3-5-2 lots of fits when they moved their attack to the flanks with balls served out of the middle up to Morgan Wood and Emily Haar.  Stevens have a stellar defense in front of GK Ellie Wing including sophomore Gabbi DeMarce and senior Alexis Coats.  The Stevens defenders will have to get the ball off their feet quicker to negate the pressure by Lady Govs’ opportunistic hustling junior forward Katie Nielson.

Sioux Falls Washington at Aberdeen Central

These teams did not meet during the regular season and could present one of the best clashes of styles in the first round of playoffs.  Both teams have plenty of talent from back to front and the work rates have been among the highest in the state.  A look at the records will reveal that Aberdeen Central had a bit more success against common opponents throughout the season.  But Sioux Falls Washington won when it mattered.  We like this match as much because of the opposing coaches as for the opposing players.  Both Aberdeen Central’s Merle Aske and Sioux Falls Washington’s Scott Guse have been at this for a very long time.  Both are teachers from the sideline and know how to help their players motivate themselves.

As far as the players go, we will be treated to battles throughout the park.  For Aberdeen Central, their engine room features much energy from Region II player junior Allie Zueger, who is an end line – to – end line player.  Couple her work with the game smarts of senior defender Alexis Nelson and junior midfielder Emily Brennan and you have a core of players who are tough to beat.  Perhaps the most pleasant surprise for the Golden Eagles this year is the introduction of eighth grader Deborah Wills and freshman Hillary Mantone as legitimate scoring threats who must be dealt with.

For Sioux Falls Washington, junior midfielder Morgan Moe runs the middle of the park for the Lady Warriors.  Moe is not afraid to run back and help defend, but her service to forwards senior Aveen Aware and sophomore Skylar Moen has been exquisite.  Moe’s partner in the middle, Peyton Stenzel, can place a pass just about anywhere she wants on the field. Keeper Adrianna Heinert has proven that she has what it takes between the pipes to keep her team in games and has come up big several times in the team’s run-up to the playoffs.

Aberdeen Central will have to keep a close eye on Washington’s attack – the Lady Warriors just seem to know how to get numbers forward.  On the other side of the ball, Washington will have to defend their flanks, as the Golden Eagles love to put the ball in outer channels and then bang it into the six.

Sioux Falls Roosevelt at Sioux Falls O’Gorman

These teams met in a true battle on a basically unmarked Yankton Trail Park grass field on September 2, only a few days after O’Gorman lost their starting senior GK Kristina Wagner to an ACL tear.  Sophomore replacement Olivia Surrell stood in and did a great job throughout, despite some early-game jitters.  This was a back-and-forth game with great battles in the middle of the park as O’Gorman sophomore Theresa Pujado battled sometimes against three Roosevelt players for control.  Roosevelt’s organized attack, with juniors Grace Behm and Jacey Bailey and senior midfielder Abby Behm gave the O’Gorman defense plenty to think about.  The game finished up with tremendous pressure put on Roosevelt by O’Gorman’s Alyssa Weidler, but with no reward for her work, despite many chances.

The intriguing part of the September 2nd 1-0 win by Roosevelt and Tuesday’s game is the fact that two of the state’s best center backs – Roosevelt’s senior Kelsey Wipf and O’Gorman’s junior Molly Doetzel – face each other’s attack again.  Another question is how Roosevelt will respond to playing on O’Gorman’s home turf surface.

Keys to the match:

Roosevelt have not had the kind of season finish they have hoped for.  They need to make the playoffs a reason to connect with each other psychologically again and work toward that common purpose.  For O’Gorman, they need sophomore keeper Olivia Surrell to continue her strong performance and must try to find a little more help in the middle for Pujado, who has the stuff to win games for them if she is tasked more with scoring goals and less with winning balls in the middle and then providing service to Weidler.

Rapid City Central at Sioux Falls Lincoln

These teams met opening weekend and left the question unanswered with a 1-1 draw.  Ironically, both teams started out far less than we expected they would. But both coaches – Lincoln’s Steve Burckhalter and Central’s Mark Morgan – are the type of coaches that find their team’s weakest point, solve it and move on to the next area that needs work.  Both teams have showed steady improvement over the course of the year and have had increasing success.  Both teams are stacked with talent, with Central’s Rose Miller running six to six and leading the team when times are tough.  Attackers Leah Emerson, a junior, and Kyra Butler, sophomore,  are opportunistic and ready to go to goal at a moment’s notice.

For Lincoln, balance has been the theme of the 2014 season.  Anchored by senior keeper Maggie Smither, the Patriots have become more organized and stingier as the season progresses.  Two sets of twins – senior mids Brooke and Brittany Forsman and sophomore players Megan and Madison Landon – are core players in the Lincoln scheme, while hard-running Madeline Kelly provides the work up top.

Keys to the match:

For Rapid City Central, they will have to control the middle of the park and try to get more players forward to score.  Sending one player against the likes of Lincoln’s senior center back Katie Gillette probably won’t cut it.

For Lincoln, they are going to have to find a way to score against an organized and motivated team.  Central is blessed with two very good keepers and their back line that flexes between three and five defenders is tough to figure out.

AA Boys

Sioux Falls Washington at Sioux Falls Roosevelt

These teams met August 26th and Roosevelt got out of it with a 3-2 win.  At times, Washington looked like the better team as Washington senior Bailey Uthe ran around largely untouched and had a big impact on the game.  But ultimately, Roosevelt’s senior strikers prevailed, with David Irakoze netting one and leading scorer Kolby Scott provided two.  Of the matches Roosevelt has played this year, the Washington match will go down as one of the toughest tests.  Against Lincoln, Washington’s keeper Taylor Umland-Moyer came up big half a dozen times to preserve the Roosevelt win.

Keys to the match:

Washington’s keys are no surprise.  The lightning-quick attack of Roosevelt’s Kolby Scott is difficult for any team to deal with.  And having David Irakoze in on the action brings a double threat to any defense.  Bring in the field generalship of senior Johnny Clark, who can defend, distribute and score and you are looking at the Bermuda Triangle of high school soccer. Warriors’ senior center back Trent Hunking will have to have his ranks organized and playing their best soccer to hold them off. Offensively, the Warriors just have to continue to do what they’ve been doing.  Bailey Uthe’s creative and intense play creates a lot of opportunities and his team mates need to make the trip and get on the end of the many crosses he puts through.

For Roosevelt, the keys literally are to do exactly what they have been doing on attack, and on defense, to not let Bailey Uthe run around in their backfield.  That’s potential disaster for any team.  Keeper Moyer needs to have a game equal to his performance against Lincoln.  This is an interesting game because Washington has the potential to be at the top of the heap when this is all over.  They just need to put together a whole effort from back to front.  And Roosevelt must disrupt their ability to do that.

Spearfish at Sioux Falls Lincoln

Spearfish showed they belonged Saturday against Rapid City Stevens, arguably one of the top teams in the state.  The knock you hear about Spearfish is lack of stiff competition throughout the season.  Of the ten teams they played in 2014, eight had losing records.  Though it’s not their fault – they in fact contributed to those losing records – the Spartans lost to the only teams they played that had winning records.  Spearfish have a lot of good players, including senior center back Trey Culver, junior attacker Isai Rodriguez and sophomore anywhere man Ceasar Mendez, who can sometimes single-handedly take over a game.  Add an experienced and talented coach in Jim Hill and you have a recipe for success.  So now the 10-2-1 Spartans take their show on the road against 10-1-1 Sioux Falls Lincoln, who are accustomed to hoisting the cup at the end of most of their seasons.

Lincoln is a team that has few stars, but play soccer almost like a pack of wolves.  They are organized and skilled in every position and can win with contributions from about anywhere.  In the toughest matches, center back Caesar Cuellar gets more and more involved and is dangerous wherever he is on the field – either as a defender, a provider or scorer.  You will be challenged to find a more deadly free kick man anywhere.  Junior midfielder Jamal Awadallah is smooth and smart and if he takes his time finding any gaps that might become available, his provider mentality may just make the difference.

Keys to the match:

For Spearfish they will have to disrupt Lincoln’s pattern play and put attacking pressure on them.  One of the major factors in this match condenses down to running.  Will Spearfish have the ability to run with Lincoln for eighty or ninety or a hundred minutes?  We’ll know at the end of Tuesday night’s contest.

For Lincoln, they will have to keep composure when Spearfish stuff their attack.  It sounds like they won’t have to deal with Mendez as it appears he was sent off against Stevens Saturday and won’t be available, assuming that information is accurate.  From the attacking perspective, Lincoln should do what they always do – just play organized pack soccer that has been the foundation of their success for so many years.

Pierre at Yankton

This is a rematch of Friday’s game at Pierre – but on Yankton’s home turf this time.  Yankton looked like the better organized team from back to front during the course of the game, but Pierre’s tenacity paid off twice for them.  Pierre senior Cody Kuehl is probably one of the best runners/workers in high school soccer and his relentless efforts rewarded him with two goals. Yankton had trouble with Pierre until the Bucks slowed the game down a little bit and started to play shorter soccer from the halfway line in.  Pierre had a lot of trouble dealing with attack from four different points as senior midfielder John Dannenbring kept the ball moving laterally through the midfield.

Keys to the match:

For Pierre, they are going to need an answer to Yankton’s organization throughout the field.  Yankton kept a very close eye on Cody Kuehl during the game and he still got two in on them.  Junior center mid Cole Cruse will have to be ready to take the scoring chores himself to shift defensive attention away from Kuehl.  Teaming with junior midfielders Alan Garcia and Derek Leiferman could free Cruse up to attack more if he chooses to go.  And if Govs sophomore Marcus Hluchy is at full strength, his relentless work will make a big difference.

For Yankton, they will need to keep a better eye on Kuehl.  A header goal off a corner proved that Kuehl shows up when and where he should and Bucks defenders can’t let him have that space.  Kuehl’s second goal came on a little through ball to his diagonal run and he put it in under the keeper to make scoring goals look simple and easy.  Mental lapses like these could cost Yankton plenty.  On the offensive side of the game, the shortened, passing approach worked beautifully for the Bucks when they adjusted to it.  Pierre may not have an answer against eighty minutes of that kind of soccer against them.

Aberdeen Central at Rapid City Stevens

Of all the teams the Golden Eagles have dispatched this year, it is probably the Raiders who want that rematch the most.  They were prepared to travel to Aberdeen and prove they are the better team, but now get an opportunity to do that in front of a home crowd on a double-header night on the narrow pitch at Sioux Park stadium.

In the teams’ last meeting at Swisher Field a month ago, the Golden Eagles showed once again that their home turf is not a friendly place to play. Oh, Aberdeen is a friendly enough town, but that field.  A lot of teams over their history curse that field.

On our weekly wrap-up show in early September, Aberdeen coach Steve Cogley pointed out that he had the type of team that needed to focus on a couple things and do them well.  His teams have historically been very hard to score on and that is extremely frustrating for high-scoring teams like Stevens.  Center backs senior Adam Zimmerman and junior Zack Martinmass provide the size, strength and speed to shut down any direct attacks and have the discipline to not take off when things get funky on the outside.   But Cogley also knows that across the soccer universe, a sizeable percentage of goals are scored on set pieces, and his teams excel there.  Having guys the size of Asher Margolies to aim for on corners is an advantage that most teams don’t have.

On the other hand, Stevens play much like a college team – putting tremendous amounts of attacking pressure on every team they play and trying their best to defend in their opponents’ end.  That relentless attacking pressure is largely due to senior forward Brennan Lytle, who is fast and hard and plays like he doesn’t care if he breaks his bones trying to get to a ball.  All of that pressure makes it easier for senior midfielders Noah Storm, Austin Shone, Derek Beaumont and Rick Schleusener to roll in and finish off chances that occur off Lytle’s superior work.  The Raiders are a running team going forward, but have several fierce defenders in senior back Jordan Haefs, junior center back KJ Watson and sophomore back Jacob Nunez.

Keys to the match:

For Aberdeen, it is to employ the same defend-and-counter tactics they did when they prevailed at home against Stevens earlier. Against a team like Stevens, this is a particularly effective tactic because Stevens are used to scoring and smiling going forward.  The frustration caused by that tactic is measurable.

For Rapid City Stevens, the key is to play the game at the pace that is needed for that particular game.  Against Rapid City Central, they often played faster than necessary – which led to some entertaining attacks, but could have squandered some real opportunities.  Against a team that you beat 7-0 that is letting your team have fun.  But against a team that sent you packing 0-2, that might be wasting some of the only opportunities you get.  Finally, pay attention against Aberdeen, a team that works its set pieces to perfection.

In all, these playoff games are going to entertain, disappoint, encourage and bring about plenty of joy and despair for the contestants, the coaches and the fans.  But the system in place for the first statewide sanctioned high school soccer playoffs promises to bring more interest and more parity than we have ever seen.

Notes on being the right kind of fans…

We hope that all of the fans, players, coaches and others will remember that these are high school (and some grade school) kids doing their best.  They are not going to be perfect.  And if you’re a fan who likes to babble at the players and whine at the referees from the sidelines, please put a sock in it.  No one other than you likes the sound of your voice in that situation.

Understand that the referees and their assistants are going to miss calls.  That is part of the game.  And our referees are as essential  to the game as the ball.  Cut ‘em some slack, please.  Regardless of what you personally think of their performance, they did their best and we could not have had the match without them.

Good coaches work year-around teaching the players how to take adversity like adults.  All that work is wasted when players look at the adults on the sideline and see them reacting to adversity like spoiled children.

Enjoy the games!  And if you see Soccer605 on the sideline, come up and say HI!

We LOVE to watch you play!