End of non-conference prepares Jacks for Summit League

After losing against Northern Iowa (UNI) 1-0 and tying Drake 2-2, the South Dakota State soccer team is hoping to win the final two games of its non-conference schedule.

First, the Jacks will travel to Grand Forks, North Dakota, Friday to face the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks for the second time this season. The Jacks defeated the Fighting Hawks 1-0 Aug. 25 in Brookings.

The Fighting Hawks will come into the game with a 2-3-1 record, while the Jacks are 2-4-2 on the season. UND has lost or tied in its last four outings.

Senior midfielder Tori Poole, who had an assist against Drake, said it’s more difficult to play a team a second time than it is the first.

“There’s a lot more that goes into it emotionally, so it will definitely be an interesting game and one that we will have to come out strong for,” Poole said.

Head coach Brock Thompson said the Jacks had success against UND last time by keeping them on their side of the field. 

“They’ll do something different to try to offset that, so our job will be to either respond to that or change that up, or find the same success that we had,” Thompson said.

The Jacks will return to Brookings Sunday to host the Northern Colorado Bears (6-2).

Leading the Bears are junior forwards Mariel Gutierrez and Maddie Roberts, as well as senior forward Brooke Braden. Each of them are tied for the team-lead in goals with three.

“They’re a great attacking team,” Thompson said. “They’ve got three really great forwards that can go one-on-one and they’ll test our back line; and that’s the part of our team where we are a little bit inexperienced.”

After these two games, the Jacks will start preparing for Summit League play, but according to Poole, she and the rest of the team are focused on the next two games. 

“We’re hoping to grow and learn to communicate on the field more [this weekend] and start off with more intensity in the first half,” Poole said.

The Jacks finished fourth in the Summit League during the regular season last year, but won the Summit League Tournament to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season. 

Thompson believes their non-conference schedule has helped his team prepare for Summit League play.

“We’ve played a great schedule; I love it. Every game we’ve played, we played against tough teams,” Thompson said. “They were either teams from power five conferences or teams like UNI, who were 5-0, 6-0, and hadn’t conceded a goal, and we want to be in those environments because that’s where we’re going to grow the most.”

With conference play starting Sept. 29 in Denver, Thompson believes his team has a lot of work to do.

“I think this weekend we did a lot of good things in one-on-one in the attack in front of the goal, but as soon as we beat players we chose to shoot the ball, when I thought we had more space to go and get a better chance,” Thompson said.