Champions: Jackrabbits capture regular season title

“Ten, nine, eight…” The SDSU bench counted down the final seconds before rushing the field to celebrate their regular season Summit League Championship.

Going into Friday night’s senior day celebration, SDSU women’s soccer had already secured a trip to Denver, Colo. to compete in the Summit League Championships, but with Omaha falling earlier in the day it became a battle for the regular season title between the Jacks and the defending champion Pioneers.

“This is awesome,” said senior Sydney Tobin. “The team worked so hard. It was so great. We’ve had a up and down season, but this has just topped it off. … It means so much more when you’ve had a rocky road like that. And when you have wins like this it’s just so sweet.”

Seniors Eliza Stamatakis, Kristen Ford, Stephanie Krzywania and Tobin were honored before the game. Stamatakis and Krzywania were injured and unable to play, but head coach Lang Wedemeyer gave Tobin and Ford the opportunity to start their final game at Fishback Soccer Park.

“This was my first Jackrabbit start,” Tobin said. “I’ve been getting in the game, but it means so much more when you get to start a game. It was awesome.”

It was nearly a very fast start for the Jacks when in the second minute Tobin kicked it into the box and Potterveld’s header missed just wide.

Even so, the Jackrabbits continued to play with poise and aggression, winning balls and keeping the pressure on the Pioneer defense as they sought their first goal.

“We started with a tremendous amount of energy and the girls really came out with probably the best start of any game we’ve had all season,” Wedemeyer said.

In the 21st minute Tori Poole charged a Pioneer defender, who, too late in her kick, watched Poole block her attempt to clear the ball, keeping the ball on Denver’s end, where, in that same minute, Alyssa Brazil would score off an assist by Nicole Hatcher.

“It was enormous,” Wedemeyer said of the goal. “I think that that just really built our confidence and our belief that we could really play with Denver.”

The Jacks very nearly tacked on another goal minutes later when Brazil sent a loose ball into the back of the net following a free kick by Dani Patterson, but the goal was called off due to an offsides call on the Jackrabbits, leaving them charged to protect a 1-0 lead.

Denver very nearly spoiled the building excitement on the SDSU sideline and in the stands when, in the 86th minute, Anna Willis had an open shot from the top of the box, but it was knocked away and Nicole Inskeep  eventually was able secure the ball, ending the threat.

“That was nerve-racking of course,” said junior forward Diana Potterveld. “It’s hard also when I’m not in the defense, so I can’t really do anything about it right in that moment, but Nikkie’s a great goalie. She was there for us.”

A minute later the Jackrabbits put the game out of reach, getting the ball ahead to Potterveld who after stumbling at the top of the box managed to pass the ball back to Hatcher who buried the shot.

For Potterveld it was her school record-breaking 11th assist of the season.

“It’s great,” Potterveld said. “Obviously the record’s awesome but it’s more about the team. I’m just glad that we went out there and got the win. That second goal really made us be able to calm down a little bit so that was nice.”

Leading the league in assists and second in points, Potterveld’s name will likely come up frequently in the Summit League Offensive Player of the Year conversation.

“I think she has a good shot at it,” Wedemeyer said. “She’s certainly a real quality player and a quality person. She’s a great leader for us.”

With the win, the Jacks finish the season 5-2-1 in league play, having swept their home slate.

“I hope that continues,” Wedemeyer said. “I think it’s always nice to play at home. When you have your fans and your family there to support you, it makes a difference.”

Next up is the Summit League Championships in Denver, Colo. The semifinal games will be played on Thursday and if SDSU can get by whoever wins the fourth seed, they will advance to Saturday’s championship game to compete for a birth in the NCAA Tournament.

“We know that it’s going to be tough,” Wedemeyer said. “We’ve got to play at altitude. We’ve got to travel – we’ve got a bus [ride] 11, 12 hours – to be able to into a round and play a quality team. The Summit League has tremendous parity this year so we’ve got to bring the same energy and focus and concentration that we brought tonight.”