BROOKINGS – Leah Manuleleua was the hero once again for the South Dakota State Soccer team.
Her 85th-minute goal gave the Jackrabbits a 1-0 victory over the Hawaii Rainbow Wahine at Fishback Soccer Park in Brookings on Tuesday night.
SDSU outshot Hawaii 14-5 on the night and controlled the ball most of the game. They came close on many of those shots, but were unable to put the ball into the net until Manuleleua scored the late goal.
“I would be more concerned if we weren’t generating chances,” said SDSU head coach Brock Thompson. “But we have got to have a better idea, as far as what the final ball looks like and how to finish those chances. Credit to our team, they just stuck with it and found a way.”
Maya Hansen started the rush for the Jacks. She beat her defender on the left side and passed it to Manuleleua out front and put it in on a rebound of her own shot.
“I thought Maya did a fantastic job beating her defender one-on-one and to turn the corner and to find Leah. The goalkeeper actually made a really nice save on the first one, but credit to Leah for sticking with it and getting the rebound. It was really the type of goal we needed. We needed to get the ball out wide and beat their defenders wide,” Thompson said.
SDSU’s defense was great all night as goalkeeper Maggie Smither only faced three shots on goal. Thompson said Smither makes difficult saves look routine at times.
“There’s some saves in that game that Maggie makes look simple, that were big time saves. Maybe not even on shots, but also balls played through and things like that. Hawaii is a really good team and they were inches away from creating some really good goal scoring chances. I’m proud of Maggie and the back line for being able to keep the shutout and the clean sheet,” Thompson said.
This was the first time SDSU had faced Hawaii, so it was an unfamiliar opponent for the Jackrabbits.
“I’ve got a ton of respect for their coaching staff and their program,” Thompson said. “They are phenomenal and are really, really, really well coached. They play the game the right way and they’re just a fun team to play because they play a little bit differently than the teams we play here in the Midwest. I thought it was a great opportunity for our team.”
The Jacks improved to 3-3 on the season and will host Eastern Washington on Friday at 6 p.m.. Thompson said his team needs to improve on the little things moving forward.
“We’ve got to have more consistency in some of the mundane moments. I thought Hawaii did a good job at getting ahold of some of the second balls and 50-50 balls. We’ve got to be able to get on the ball more in some of those moments,” Thompson said.