A Boys Elite Eleven
Chance Strom Senior Groton Area
In the closest contest ever for an Elite Eleven keeper, Strom was on the radar all year as his team dispatched opponent after opponent. Playing in a system that likes to get lots of numbers forward presents a special situation for the keeper. Strom’s save-per-shot ratio was better than any other keeper in the state. But it was his blocked PK in the championship shootout against Sioux Falls Christian while injured that propelled him above the competition. When his team needed him to perform, Strom was there every time for them.
Sam DeSautel Senior Sioux Falls Christian
Leading his defense in the team that allowed the fewest goals in the state, DeSautel was a smart, active man in the back. With great size and speed – and a desire to win – DeSautel kept his team organized. One of the Chargers’ reasons for attacking success this year was the way their defense played. They had confidence that they could attack and the defense would take care of any counters.
Landon Larson Senior Groton Area
Possibly the most feared defender in A Boys division, Larson was the guy who ran down through balls and took care of any attackers. Physical, fast and responsible, Larson anchored his team to allow numbers forward and went forward himself to take advantage of his height on corners and other set pieces.
Jayden Waldner Junior James Valley Christian
James Valley Christian play organized soccer so well that the team are almost like a single organism, moving and responding in unison. Within that organized group, individual efforts matter in every area of the field. Waldner was the leading voice from the back for his team, keeping them organized and going forward together. Whether he was running down through balls or going forward supporting possession, Waldner was much of the glue that held his side together.
Lee Wynja Senior Sioux Falls Christian
No player scored more goals in 2014 and that really didn’t surprise too many observers. But Wynja wasn’t there only to score goals – evidenced by the fact that three of the top points earners were Sioux Falls Christian players. A player who can defend or attack or hold together possession or thread a smart ball through, Wynja was the engine room in a team full of hard workers.
Tim Wager Junior James Valley Christian
For the soccer observer who enjoys watching an organized team play, Wager was a delight to watch in 2014. His talent for finding the right pass was well-noted, but he was dangerous going forward to score for the Vikings and enjoyed running down attacking opponents. A very good example of a complete player, Wager has a great balance of speed, soccer smarts, skill and desire.
Joey Ten Napel Senior Sioux Falls Christian
The key players for Sioux Falls Christian have played together for years and it is uncanny how they know where the others are going to show up when needed. Probably no player in A Boys this year showed up at the right place at the right time more than Ten Napel. Whether it was breaking up opponents’ possession or supporting his own team’s efforts, Ten Napel was always there. But the most enjoyable thing to watch about his play in 2014 was his opportunity radar. He scored goal after goal from intercepted passes, weak clearances and parried balls.
Jacob Milbrandt Senior Groton Area
A tough, smart, hard-working midfielder, Milbrandt is the kind of player they describe as making up the engine room in the middle of the park. Groton Area play an in-your-face style of soccer and Milbrandt exemplified that mentality – winning balls in the middle, supporting play going forward and finishing chances his team created.
Ty Wynia Senior Hot Springs
Playing in a team that had a difficult schedule, often against large schools didn’t seem to bother Wynia much. His relentless attacking style yielded a lot of goals for his team and worked them into a position in the post-season party. As he leaves his high school career, he leaves behind a lot of happy defenders and lessons for the young players in his team.
Spencer Lund 8th Grader St. Thomas More
The youngest player to ever be named to an Elite Eleven team, Lund displays a competency and confidence that is rare among even much older players. Part of this comes from having a good training base in his club, but much of it comes by way of his individual accomplishments. As much as his team struggled in 2014, Lund rose to the occasion at every opportunity, performing far above expectations.
Paul Eide Junior Sioux Falls Christian
An entertaining player to watch, Eide possibly did more running than any other forward in A Boys. And that’s because he acts like it’s possible to get to every ball, regardless of how far off course the pass may send it. He simply never quit running. And when he had a bona-fide opportunity, Eide rarely missed the mark. We’ll be curious to see how he steps up as the Chargers’ leader next year as the team lose a lot of senior leadership. We’re confident he’ll fill that vacuum and then some.
Player of the Year
Photo: Michael McElroy
Lee Wynja Sioux Falls Christian
It’s Wynja’s second straight appearance on the Elite Eleven and his second straight year as Player of the Year. And although there were a lot of very good players in the pool this year, none could match Wynja’s importance to his team and to the Game itself.
Wynja – on and off the field – exemplifies exactly what programs hope to produce. He has great skill, a nose to finish and a deep desire to help his team win. But it’s the way he does all that which makes him special. Granted, Wynja scored more goals than any other South Dakota player this year, but also found time and opportunity to provide the greatest number of assists, as well.
While many attacking stars are happy to let the rest of the team do the work on defense, Wynja leads that charge, as well, running the entire field to help his team squash opponents’ attacks.
One would expect a player who has had praise heaped on him and who has had the kind of success to be a bit arrogant about it. After all, Wynja is just a teenager. And perhaps he best attributes are his personal humility and his desire to be just another cog in the gear at Sioux Falls Christian.
Coach of the Year
Mike Becker Groton Area
The primary purpose of the Coach of the Year award is to acknowledge coaches who get the most out of what they have in terms of player resources and school support. As the legendary coach Ronnie Theisz said, coaches should not be judged solely by what they did with the great players they had, but how they helped those players who needed help.
Frankly, Mike Becker has fit that role his entire coaching career at Groton Area. Like many A Division coaches, Becker has had to work productively with rosters listing players who varied not only widely in age, but in ability as well. It’s like putting a big, active jigsaw puzzle together every week.
With a core of strong players this year, Groton Area marched through most of the competition, losing only to AA sides Pierre and Aberdeen Central and to James Valley Christian, a loss they avenged when it mattered in the semifinals. In mid-season, the Tigers drew with Sioux Falls Christian, which created a great atmosphere for the final.
The 2014 A Boys final exemplified what Becker brings every year to his teams. There’s the never-say-die attitude that each player brings to the pitch, then there’s the hard work and expectations. But the main ingredient for Becker’s recipe for success is teamwork. He coaches for his team and each team member plays for the guys beside them.