Jacks soccer sets sights on third NCAA Tournament

The South Dakota State soccer team is looking to win their third straight Summit League Tournament this weekend in Fargo, North Dakota. The Jacks will head into the tournament as the No. 3 seed.

The tournament starts on Thursday when the No. 1 seed and tournament host, North Dakota State, plays the No. 4 seed Oral Roberts. SDSU will play the No. 2 seed, Denver.

The Jacks fell to IUPUI in their final game of the regular season Friday night 2-1.

The Jackrabbits were in first place in the Summit League heading into the matchup, but dropped to third place with the loss.

SDSU Head Coach Lang Wedemeyer said the team was “very disappointed” with the loss.

“We were playing for a regular season championship and the ability to host the tournament next year,” Wedemeyer said. “It was senior night as well, so it was very disappointing on many different levels, but we can’t do anything about the past, we have to refocus going into the tournament.”

SDSU defeated Denver 2-0 in their lone meeting during the regular season. They also beat the two other teams in the tournament, defeating NDSU 1-0 and Oral Roberts 5-1.

Wedemeyer knows only a couple mistakes can make the difference between winning and losing.

“We have to have a lot of attention to detail, especially on the defensive end, and we have to find a way to score.” Wedemeyer said.

The Jackrabbit defense has been the best in the Summit League and one of the best in the country, as they are ranked 42nd out of 329 teams in goals against average. They’ve only allowed 14 goals all season and only .75 goals a game, which are both at the top of the Summit League. The team has also shut out teams eight times this year.

The key to defense is their goalies. The Jacks use two goalies instead of one, with senior Nicole Inskeep and Maggie Smithers splitting time in the goal. Smithers has only allowed three goals all season.

“Then we have three seniors across the back line and arguably one of the best freshmen in the conference in Alexa Hepner,” Wedemeyer said about the strength of the team.

Hepner, who is from Prior Lake, Minnesota, has started all 18 games for the Jackrabbits.

The Jacks were led on offense this season by junior Nicole Hatcher. She totaled 15 points in the season by scoring six goals and nine assists, both of which are team-highs.

“We’ve relied on Nicole Hatcher to lead us on the attack,” Wedemeyer said. “She’s been very potent in a lot of respects, but she has to find her scoring touch again.”

Hatcher recorded a point in seven straight games from Sept. 11 to Oct. 9 which was a school record. She only scored one goal in the final four games of the season, though.

The Jacks will play Denver Thursday at 3 p.m. at Dacotah Field in Fargo, North Dakota. If they win, they play the winner of the NDSU and ORU game 11 a.m. Saturday. The winner of that will be guaranteed a spot in the NCAA Tournament.