BROOKINGS – The South Dakota State women's soccer team opens the 2019 regular season with a two-match homestand this weekend, welcoming Utah State and Idaho State to Fishback Soccer Park.
The Jackrabbits and Aggies face off today at 6 p.m. and the weekend concludes Sunday at 1 p.m. against the Bengals.
Sunday's game is the second annual Hometown Heroes Day promotion for Jackrabbit Soccer, where Brookings area first responders can receive free admittance to watch the Jacks take on Idaho State at 1 p.m. Before the game, fans will have a chance to meet hometown heroes from the Brookings Police and Fire & Rescue Departments, who will have vehicles and equipment on hand for fans to explore.
SDSU is coming off a 12-6-1 (7-1 Summit League) campaign in 2018, claiming the league's regular-season title for the second consecutive year. The Jacks return seven starters and 17 letterwinners off last year's squad.
Maggie Smither and Leah Manuleleua were named as Players to Watch by the league earlier this week and are part of a six-member senior class tasked with leading the 2019 squad.
South Dakota State's top five scorers from 2018 return, including Manuleleua (14 points) and Karlee Manding (12 points), who each had five goals. Team captain Carina McLennan added five assists and a pair of goals, while Marisa Schulz and Abigail Kastens found the net three times each.
Defensively, Kaitlin Zabel carries the most experience for a back line that surrendered only 14 goals last season, as the junior has started 32 consecutive matches for South Dakota State.
A Look Across the Pitch
Utah State was 3-13-2 last season, going 2-7-2 in Mountain West action. The Aggies return their top three scorers from 2018 in Ashley Cardozo (four assists, three goals), Sara Noel (four goals) and Imelda Williams (two goals, one assist). Rachel Noel is back between the pipes but logged only 180 minutes a year ago, allowing four goals with 12 saves over two games. SDSU is 0-2 all-time against Utah State, falling to the Aggies in the 2016 (home) and 2017 (away) season openers
Idaho State is coming off a 2-14 campaign with a 1-8 Big Sky record. The Bengals return 21 from last year's team, including Delaney Johnston (four goals, one assist) and Makena Bambei (two goals, two assists) on the offensive end. ISU also returns both goalkeepers: Laule'a Akana-Phillips (3.00 goals against average, 60 saves) and Katie Hogarth (4.74 GAA, 26 saves). SDSU topped ISU last season (2-0) in the first-ever meeting between the squads.
Last Time Out
The Jackrabbits took on UMKC in exhibition format last weekend, drawing 2-2 with the Kangaroos on their home turf.
Carina McLennan and Abigail Kastens found the net for the Jackrabbits, while newcomers Gabby Vivier-Hannay and Maya Hansen added assists. Maggie Smither (five saves) and Jocelyn Tanner split time between the pipes, allowing one goal each.
A Pattern of Success
South Dakota State's defensive prowess, senior leadership and nonleague success since joining the Summit League has produced a trend of conference play (and overall season) success. In total, the Jackrabbits' 67 wins (and .787 league winning percentage) is the top mark among Summit League teams, dating back to 2008.
• On the Defensive. Last year's squad allowed just 14 goals for the season, posting the third-best goals against average (0.71) in school history. That played into a two-year GAA of 0.78 (2017-18), the second-best mark at SDSU. The Jackrabbits have put together back-to-back seasons of 1.00 or fewer goals allowed per 90 minutes (game) three times, including the last three seasons (2016-17, 2017-18). Maggie Smither and Kaitlin Zabel bring the most experience to the 2018 defensive unit and will look to continue that trend.
• Four-Year Senior Records. South Dakota State's senior class boasts a 33-18-8 record over the last three years, including a 19-4-0 mark in Summit League play with a tournament championship, two regular-season titles and a trip to the NCAA Tournament. If SDSU reaches double-digit wins for the seventh year in a row, that senior class will finish no lower than tied for fourth in the SDSU record books for most class wins. Last year's group finished with 45 victories, the third-most in school history. Forty-nine wins is the best four-year mark (2008-11).
• Nonleague Success. The Jackrabbits have posted a plus-.500 record in nonleague play seven times since joining the Summit League, including three of the last four years. The Jackrabbits will host five nonleague opponents in 2019 at Fishback Soccer Park with six contests on the road.
Brookings has been good to the Jackrabbits, as South Dakota State has a 103-42-18 all-time home record, including tournament games, at Fishback Soccer Park. Coach Brock Thompson, now in his third season, has a 15-3-1 mark at Fishback Soccer Park
Since moving to the Summit League in 2007, the Jackrabbits are 76-23-11 at home. SDSU is 44-3-2 against Summit League opponents and has lost just one home league contest since 2010.