State soccer opens season with pair of wins

Senior+forward+Leah+Manuleleua+%2811%29+dribbles+past+a+defender+in+the+Sanford+Jackrabbit+Athletic+Complex.+Manuleleua+scored+her+first+two+goals+of+the+season+against+Idaho+State+Sunday%2C+Aug.+25%2C+at+Fishback+Soccer+Park.
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State soccer opens season with pair of wins

Senior forward Leah Manuleleua (11) dribbles past a defender in the Sanford Jackrabbit Athletic Complex. Manuleleua scored her first two goals of the season against Idaho State Sunday, Aug. 25, at Fishback Soccer Park.

Senior forward Leah Manuleleua (11) dribbles past a defender in the Sanford Jackrabbit Athletic Complex. Manuleleua scored her first two goals of the season against Idaho State Sunday, Aug. 25, at Fishback Soccer Park.

FILE PHOTO

Senior forward Leah Manuleleua (11) dribbles past a defender in the Sanford Jackrabbit Athletic Complex. Manuleleua scored her first two goals of the season against Idaho State Sunday, Aug. 25, at Fishback Soccer Park.

FILE PHOTO

FILE PHOTO

Senior forward Leah Manuleleua (11) dribbles past a defender in the Sanford Jackrabbit Athletic Complex. Manuleleua scored her first two goals of the season against Idaho State Sunday, Aug. 25, at Fishback Soccer Park.

Landon Dierks, Sports Editor

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While most students were busy moving back to Brookings for the start of the fall semester, South Dakota State University’s soccer team was kicking off its season at Fishback Soccer Park.

The Jackrabbits hosted a pair of contests over move-in weekend to open the 2019 campaign, winning both.

Senior Maggie Smither saved each of the eight shots she faced on goal as the Jackrabbits blanked Utah State University 1-0 Friday evening and followed with a 2-0 win Sunday afternoon over Idaho State University.

While Smither was doing her job in goal, the Jacks struggled to find the back of the net against the Aggies’ goalkeeper, Rachel Noel. The game looked destined to end in a draw until SDSU caught a late break.

The Jacks were awarded a penalty kick after a USU handball inside the box, and in the 89th minute, sophomore midfielder Karlee Manding stepped to the penalty spot and buried the only goal of the contest.

“It was a game of moments … but we did just enough in the end to win and I’m proud of our team for that,” said SDSU coach Brock Thompson following the narrow win. “To Karlee’s credit, to be able to compose herself and knock down the penalty kick was great.”

Less than 48 hours after Manding’s late-game heroics, the Jacks took the field again against ISU.

Coming off a 2-14 campaign a season ago, the Bengals opened their season Friday in Vermillion, dropping a 2-0 contest to the University of South Dakota.

SDSU replicated the result with a pair of second-half goals.

Junior forward Marisa Schulz assisted on both goals off corner kicks as senior forward Leah Manuleleua headed the ball into the net in the 51st and 60th minutes to push SDSU past the Bengals to its first 2-0 start since 2006.

“I’m really happy with where we’re at as a team, but it’s still the infancy of the season,” Thompson said after his team’s second win in three days. “We got better this weekend for sure, but we also discovered some things we have to work on and clean up as we go through the season.”

SDSU will be on the road for three straight contests before returning home for a Sept. 10 matchup with the University of Hawaii.