Jacks face tough tests against Denver, Omaha


Zoey Schentzel

South Dakota State forward Cece Limongi dribbles the ball on USD defender Maliah Atkins (24) in a Summit League soccer game against the South Dakota Coyotes Saturday night at Fishback Soccer Park. The Jackrabbits and the Coyotes went scoreless for the entire game, ending in a 0-0 tie.

Jake Weber, Sports Reporter

The Jackrabbits look to continue their undefeated season against Summit League leader Denver Friday and third-placed Omaha Sunday at Fishback Soccer Park in two highly-anticipated conference matchups.

The game Friday will be the first matchup between Denver and SDSU since the two schools met for the conference title last year when SDSU defeated Denver 4-2 to capture its 12th Summit League title.

Friday’s matchup could be a similar high-profile game between the top two favorites to win the Summit League. This year’s conference preseason poll had Denver at No. 1 and SDSU at No. 2.

Denver will be looking for a strong offensive performance from their top goal scorer, Camryn MacMillan. Denver’s top point scorer, Sami Feller, is also looking to continue her impressive season as she currently has three goals and four assists so far.

The Pioneers are led by Jeff Hooker in his 32st season with the team. They currently sit at 2-0 in conference play, having defeated both North Dakota State and North Dakota, each by scores of 2-0. This strong start against Summit League opponents has catapulted them to the top of the conference standings.

“Any time SDSU and Denver meet on the soccer field, it’s always been a great game,” SDSU coach Brock Thompson said. “The margin for error is going to be very small and it’s going to come down to a play or two here or there that’s really going to determine the outcome.”

SDSU’s second opponent this weekend and their third conference matchup of the year is against Omaha Sunday. 

Omaha is led by sixth-year coach Tim Walters. They currently sit third in the Summit League after a 0-0 draw with North Dakota, followed by a win against North Dakota State. In that game, NDSU tied the game late, but that was quickly overshadowed by a 90th-minute winner from Omaha’s Sophia Green–her first of the season.

Omaha’s goalkeeper Mia Reedtz Rehde Olesen has had a busy start to the season, with 30 saves and a 73% save rate through 10 games. This work has earned her three shutouts so far this year. 

Omaha’s top offensive threats are Cece Behrens, who currently leads Omaha with two goals, and Emilie Erland, who has one goal, but over 50% of her shots have been on target.

The last time these two schools faced off was in the Summit League tournament last year where SDSU defeated Omaha 1-0. They also got the better of Omaha in the regular season last year. The Jackrabbits defeated the Mavericks 2-1 in Omaha.

The Jackrabbits have started the season undefeated but currently stand at sixth in the Summit League after they drew with USD in their conference opener this past Saturday. The match was a defensive showing as both teams failed to register a goal.

While Thompson believed the Jackrabbits played well against the Coyotes, he said they could have capitalized on their chances better.

“I think that’s part of the reason why we didn’t score a goal,” Thompson said. “But overall, as far as the game we played, I thought we played pretty well. We’ve just got to be a little bit better in the final third.”

This game was the first time this season that SDSU failed to score a goal but was also its sixth shutout of the season.

The Jack’s strong defensive performances this season can partly be attributed to their two goalies, Hailee Fischer and Jocelyn Tanner. 

Statistically, both goalkeepers have been two of the strongest in the conference. Fischer currently has the highest save percentage in the Summit League, with Tanner right behind her. 

Tanner has the fewest goals allowed per game and Fischer sits right behind her in that statistic as well. Both goalkeepers are also two of only three goalies who are currently allowing less than one goal per game.

The Jackrabbits’ attack is once again being led by Maya Hansen. Her five goals and five assists both lead the team. She is also tied for first place on the Summit League’s points leaderboard with 15.