Soccer team off to good start in title defense

Jake Weber, Sports Reporter

The South Dakota State women’s soccer team has started its new season in great form following its win against Bemidji State this past Sunday to improve their record to 3-0-1.

Coming off a 17-4-1 overall record last season, where they made an appearance in the NCAA tournament and broke multiple school records, the Jackrabbits have high hopes in their title defense, with many of their starters from last season returning.

Among those returning this season is junior defender Kaycee Manding, who credits the team’s chemistry to their recent success.

“We are so close. I have never seen another team as close as we are,” Manding said. “We’ve always had each other’s back on and off the field. We look at each other as family and not as much like teammates.”

Other notable returning players include Cece Limongi who scored eight goals last year and Laney Murdzek who was a member of the all-newcomer team for the Summit League last year alongside Jackrabbit teammate Avery Murdzek who took home newcomer of the year in 2021. The returning Jocelyn Tanner also took home an individual award last year as her nine shutouts helped her take home the 2021 Summit League goalkeeper of the year award.

Maya Hansen, Avery Murdzek, Rachel Preston and Tanner are other players returning to the squad after earning All-Summit League honors in 2021.

Their leading scorer from last season, senior Maya Hansen also returned for this season and is making an immediate impact. She has already added three goals in the Jacks’ four games this year. She has also recorded three assists this season along with Manding and her sister Karlee Manding.

The Jacks did lose two all-conference selections from 2021 and six other players who gave them significant minutes.

In total, the Jacks have 23 returning players and six newcomers for the upcoming season. 

“Our team has always relied on older players teaching younger players,” coach Brock Thompson said. “That’s been an incredible part of our culture. They do it because it’s in the best interest of the team. We have a nice mix of returning players and newcomers that will add to the personality and ability of our team. It will be fun to see how it all develops through this fall.” 

So far this season the Jacks started with a 1-1 draw at Arizona State before finishing their early road trip with two wins against Grand Canyon and Northern Arizona. The Jacks returned to Brookings for their first home match of the year against Bemidji State as they defeated the Beavers 3-0. 

Looking ahead, the Jacks hit the road to take on Northern Iowa in Cedar Rapids this Thursday before returning to Brookings for seven home games in a row including the beginning of the Summit League season against USD Sept. 24. 

Thompson is pleased with how his team has performed at the start of this season, and could give them momentum to keep playing well throughout the season. 

“Our goal as a team each season is to be playing our best soccer in late October and November. But to do that, you’ve got to do the right things in August,” Thompson said.