2 Good!Titans repeat as State Champs
The Tea Area High School girls’ soccer team has achieved a remarkable feat, clinching their second straight Class A State Championship title with a stunning performance. Under the guidance of their head coach, Mark Anderson, the team displayed extraordinary skill, determination, and composure throughout the tournament, ultimately emerging as the 4-2 Champions over Gronton this past Saturday, Oct. 14 in Brandon.
Last season’s dramatic State Championship win and the departure of eight key players left Anderson and his team contemplating extensive roster changes to rebuild their formidable squad.
“From goal keeper to the strikers up top we had a lot of changes in mind. And that would take time to get the line up working together and all on the same page,” said Anderson. “We really built the team over the whole season and it started to pay off we finished the regular season strong went through the playoffs confident we could win.”
Their opponents in the championship showdown, Groton, had an outstanding season, fiercely competing with the Titans for the top spot in the standings all season.
Their regular-season clash in late September saw Tea Area claim a resounding 4-0 victory, setting the stage for an epic rematch. Groton, after defeating Sioux Falls Christian in the semifinals, was determined to avenge their prior loss.
The game lived up to the hype, with the first half seeing relentless back-and-forth action. Tea Area generated numerous offensive opportunities but was thwarted by Groton’s resilient defense and their outstanding goalkeeper. Groton, on the other hand, attempted to capitalize on their counter-attacks by sending balls over the top to breach Tea Area’s defensive line. However, Tea Area’s resolute defense denied most of these attempts, and their goalkeeper, Maddie Baatz, made vital saves to keep the opponents at bay. The first half concluded in a goalless deadlock.
“Having played recently both teams knew what to expect from each other,” said Anderson. “At half we talked about controlling play by possessing the ball passing on the ground and using our speed. That style of play has worked for us for years and it worked well.”
This game plan bore fruit in the second half, as Tea Area immediately began creating scoring opportunities.
Their relentless pressure ultimately resulted in a Groton player fouling Junior Alana Otten as she charged towards the goal. Tea Area was awarded a penalty kick.
“We practice penalty kicks often and again it paid off for us as Freshman Cate Giles stepped to the line to take the kick and she put it into the top right corner to put us up 1-0,” said Anderson.
The second half witnessed Tea Area sticking to their game plan, dominating possession, and moving the ball around through ground passing. Groton did not concede easily, but Tea Area’s strategy spread them out and enabled them to maintain control of the game. Senior Aftyn Murray initiated a play by passing the ball to Junior Kya Lekander, who took a shot on goal. Groton’s goalkeeper deflected the ball, but Sophomore Sage Hoffman was perfectly positioned to capitalize on the deflection, extending Tea Area’s lead to 2-0.
The team continued to execute their game plan, keeping Groton on the back foot. Sophomore Ellie Clayberg’s precise pass found Senior Aftyn Murray, who then delivered an impeccable through ball to Junior Kendra Nielson. Nielson buried it in the back of the goal to extend Tea Area’s lead to 3-0.
Late in the game, Groton managed to penetrate Tea Area’s defense, taking a shot deep in the goal area. However, goalkeeper Baatz made a critical deflection, which, unfortunately, rebounded off a Tea Area player and into the goal. Nevertheless, Tea Area maintained a 3-1 lead, and controlled the final minutes of the game to capture their second consecutive State A Championship title.
Earning Offensive Player of the game was Tea Area’s Aftyn Murray. Defensive Player of the game honors went to the Titans’ Sage Hoffman.
The 2023 All State Class A Soccer Teams were also announced with three Titans making their way to the First Team. Those honored included Madison Baatz, Aftyn Murray, and Mya Neuhardt.