Jackrabbits open up spring schedule in Creighton

Natalie Hilden, Sports Reporter

The everlasting Midwest winter has been an adjustment for the South Dakota State women’s soccer team and its original spring schedule.

An early February doubleheader before spring break, against St. Cloud State and Southwest Minnesota State University, was canceled and turned into an intrasquad scrimmage after the team’s opponents could not travel due to inclement weather.  

Head coach Brock Thompson said his team is blessed to have facilities like the Sanford Jackrabbit Athletic Complex (SJAC). Despite this, his team is ready to play a game outside.

“Our players work really hard in the months of January and February so it is nice to reward them with games before spring break, but the blizzard wiped those out,” Thompson said. “We are just excited to play.”

The Jacks will get their chance as they take on Creighton University March 23 in Omaha, Nebraska.

“Creighton is always a good match for us,” junior midfielder Carina McLennan said.

Last time the Jacks took on Creighton, they fell 1-0. An early goal by the Blujay senior Kaira Houser allowed them to hold on to both the lead and the momentum throughout the game.  

SDSU held strong in the 90 minutes keeping up a good rhythm but were unable to gain the equalizing goal. Each team put up 13 shots while Marisa Schulz, Karlee Manding, Annie Williams, Bianca Madonia and Allie Zueger all put up two shots apiece for the Jackrabbits.

Maggie Smither played the entire game in the goal for the Jacks and picked up six saves.  

Thompson said that his team will go into the game with the “play to win attitude” but their plan goes a little deeper during the spring season.  

“Our goal as a team in the spring is a little different, it is 100 percent developmental,” Thompson said. “We have a few other things that we get the privilege to develop during this time.”

SDSU will play its entire roster during Saturday’s game so it can fine-tune the formation on the field and style of play to match the incoming group of players.

The Jacks are returning this season with a lot of experience in the midfield and on their front line.

With the loss of graduating senior defenders Williams, Kyli Nelson and Hannah Evans, the Jacks are looking to focus on their defensive line.

“We want to give some experience to our players that play deeper in the back of the field,” Thompson said.  

Going forward with Creighton and the rest of the season, Thompson said the returning midfield is looking strong in terms of experience and growth.  

“Darien [Poelstra], Carina [McLennan], Karlee [Manding] in midfield they have had great falls,” Thompson said. “All three of them are poised and are continuing to grow.”

SDSU will introduce four fresh faces across its back line this season with Shayna Stubbs, Cece Limongi, Gabby Vivier-Hannay and Rachel Preston taking on roles in the rebuilding process.

“They will be in the back stepping in for Annie and Hannah,” Thompson said. “You’ll definitely see their names more often because they’ve been behind some great players for a while.”  

With the graduation of six influential seniors, leaders and many powerful forces on the Jacks’ defensive line, McLennan has taken on the captain role though she is honored with the title she sees a much more collective form of leadership in their team.  

“We have our leadership council in our team,” McLennan said. “It hasn’t been that different, it’s still me with a new title.”

The Jacks will face Creighton and the University of Missouri–Kansas City on the road in the coming weeks. They will wrap up their spring scheduled games at home with the University of Mary and Augustana University.

“Our goal going into it is to fine tune the three things we work on every game,” Thompson said. “Which are to create quality scoring chances, being the best team in the country the moment the ball is lost and really refining our ability to be the most positive and mentally tough team on the field at all times.”