Jacks go for 4th-straight NCAA Tournament appearance


Abby Fullenkamp

ABBY FULLENKAMP Senior Nicole Hatcher (10) blocks the ball from USD defense Brittney Baker (20) at Fishback Soccer Park Oct. 26. The Jacks beat the Coyotes 2-0.

Natalie Hilden

After going 7-0 in conference play and winning the Summit League regular season crown, the South Dakota State soccer team will travel to Fargo, North Dakota, Thursday for the Summit League Championship.

“We can’t let previous success get to our heads,” said Julia Lam, senior midfielder for the Jacks.

SDSU has the No. 1 seed in the tournament. Thursday’s semi-final match will be against the North Dakota State Bison, who are the No. 4 seed.

It will be a rematch of the final game of the regular season that SDSU won 4-0.

Head coach Brock Thompson said the team is going into semi-finals knowing there is a larger margin for error the second time around.

“We know NDSU is going to be a whole new and unique game,” Thompson said. “They may make corrections, they may not.”

SDSU has won nine straight games and are undefeated in their last 11 matches, which is a new school record.

Sophomore goalkeeper Maggie Smither has posted six straight shutouts. She has made 83 saves over this season and allowed only one goal in Summit League play. She has lowered her goals against average for 2017 to 0.80.

For the Bison, goalkeeper Monica Polgar has started 12 games and holds a 1.65 goals against average for the season.

Senior forward Nicole Hatcher and sophomore forward Leah Manuleleua took advantage of Polgar the last matchup as they both scored goals. They are both tied for the team lead in goals on the season with seven.

SDSU outshot the Bison 16-5 and continued to control the momentum of the game throughout. The Bison are 4-1 in their last five games and were only one win away from being the No. 1 seed in the tournament.

Moving forward to tournament play, Thompson said the team will continue with the mental toughness they have prided themselves in all season. Previously, less-than-optimal conditions have prepared the Jacks for whatever tournament play can throw their way.

“We have to focus on what we can control and capitalize on every opportunity the moment gives us,” Lam said. “Less-than-optimal only increases our strength.”

Thompson said tangible validation of two good outcomes and the regular season title has helped the team have something to hold on to for the rest of the season.

“This week is going to be a byproduct and reflection of what the girls have put in,” Thompson said.

The winner of this game will play the winner of Denver and Oral Roberts in championship game at noon Saturday. The winner will go to the NCAA Tournament, which the Jacks have done the last three seasons.