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Titan girls headed back to State to defend their title

Tea Area High School’s girls’ soccer team has demonstrated their strength throughout the playoffs, securing their spot in the State Championship game once again. The Titans, who are currently ranked #1 in the state, are set to face off against #2 Groton Area this Saturday, Oct. 14, at Brandon at 11 a.m.

Last year the Titans won the State Championship title, defeating West Central 1-0, marking their second title in school history, also winning it in 2019. They have earned runner-up honors four times (2015, 2016, 2018 and 2020).

The Titans’ journey to the State Championship game has been nothing short of impressive. In their first playoff game on Thursday, Oct. 5, Tea Area took on #8 Garretson and emerged victorious with a commanding 6-0 win.

The Titans displayed a dominant performance with goals from Senior Aftyn Murray (2), Junior Kendra Nielson (1), Sophomore Ellie Clayberg (1), Sophomore McKenzie Thompson (1), and Freshman Sydney Stahlecker (1).

Assists were recorded by Junior Alana Otten, Sophomore Sage Hoffman, Junior Kia Lekander, Murray, Sophomore Piper McKinney, and Clayberg. Goalkeeper Senior Maddie Baatz ensured a shutout, highlighting the Titans’ strong defense.

In the second round of the playoffs on Saturday, October 7th, Tea Area faced #4 West Central and triumphed with a 2-1 victory. Freshman Cate Giles opened the scoring with the first goal, while the game-winner was secured by Murray, assisted by Sophomore Heidi Hofer and Otten.

The road to the State Championship game has not been without its challenges for the Titans. Head Coach Mark Anderson spoke about the team’s journey, saying, “I am so proud of this team. There seemed to be roadblocks, conflicts with the schedule, etc., to open our soccer summer training and coming into the season. After graduating eight, there were a lot of things we needed to adjust, rebuild, and organize. But team chemistry was the biggest. We didn’t let too many outside issues get in the way, and we practiced hard and slowly built the confidence we needed. The players started to believe in each other.”

Coach Anderson also highlighted the team’s resilience and improvement throughout the season, stating, “Game-wise, there were a lot of ups and downs, but as a coaching staff, we saw so many positives. And like last year, by late season, we knew we could do good things in the playoffs. We now have a big challenge ahead with our opponent Groton. We’ve played some really good soccer lately, and we just need to lock it in and finish strong on Saturday!”

Groton brings a 9-2-1 record into the State Championship game, having knocked off #7 St. Thomas More in the first round, 4-0, and defeating Sioux Falls Christian 2-1 in the semi-finals.

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