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Transition season brings new challenges and opportunities for Titan girls

Mya Neuhardt handles the ball during play last season for the Titans. She helps lead a strong group of returning starters.

In his eleventh year at the helm of the Tea Area High School girls’ soccer program, Head Coach Mark Anderson is gearing up for what promises to be an intriguing season. With a remarkable coaching tenure that spans over a decade, Coach Anderson has consistently guided his team to success, boasting an impressive record last season of 12-2-2, which concluded with a state championship title. Last year’s Junior varsity team also dominated with an undefeated record.

Anderson will be assisted this season by Jasmin Sumic, Brooke Piper, and Joni Hofer.

This year’s Titan varsity team will look a bit different than last year, with eight standout players graduating—Sydney Sherwood, Kara Knutson, Jessica Nelson, Sydney Neuhardt, Kendra McKinney, Sami VanTol, Stella Peterson, and Emily Morales. The loss of these players leave a void that returning key players are determined to fill. Among them, Aftyn Murray, Maddie Baatz, Abby Munson, Mya Neuhardt, Alana Otten, Kia Lekander, Sage Hoffman, and Reese Hammerquist stand as pillars of experience and leadership to help lead the Titans this season.

Coach Anderson believes the team’s midfield is poised to be a driving force this season along with their overall defense. He also feels the team’s goalkeepers are a significant asset to the team. Yet, he expressed concern about the youth and relative inexperience that the team will have to contend with.

“Each season we set the goal to contend and win a State Championship. This season is a transition season. This is our last season in the State A division,” said Anderson.

But Anderson feels the team has been preparing for the change as they will continue to face off against Class AA teams this year, just as they have in the past, in preparation for the move next season.

In the competitive landscape of high school soccer, Anderson feels West Central, Sioux Falls Christian, and Dakota Valley will be among the teams to beat along with Groton, Vermillion, and Garretson as strong contenders for the upcoming season.

As for specific matches to watch, Anderson sees every game as a challenge.

“We play 6 A division games and 8 AA games this year. We seem to get everyone’s best game, so I honestly think all of them are significant,” added Anderson. “Most of the AA teams we play are some of the best including AA State Champions Harrisburg and runner-up Aberdeen Central. Needless to say, we will face a lot of challenges, but I am confident this team will have a strong finish and make a run at a state championship.”

The team roster is robust, with a mix of returning starters and promising newcomers. Returning starters—Aftyn Murray, Maddie Baatz, Mya Neuhardt, Sage Hoffman, along with roster players — Zowie Bennet Isabella Johnson, Reese Hammerquist, Kia Lekander, Abby Munson, Kendra Nielson, Alana Otten, Grace Wright-Ringo, Janice Bolin, Ellie Clayberg ,Heidi Hofer, Olivia Johnson, Zoe Kriedler, Piper McKinney, Brisia Saavedra, Avalon Thompson, McKenzie Thompson, Emma Watson, Kendra Bates, Ellvana Frost, Cate Giles, Abbie Ringo, Sydney Stahlecker, Allegra Waltner, Emilee Budahl, Harper Gillis, Alayna Mann, Layla Stockwell, Kylie Voigt, Ada Klemisch, Brekkyn Quigley, Brooklyn Youngstrom, and Josie Kuipers — are all expected to help the Titans both on and off the field.

As the Titans girls’ embark on this transitional season, the journey promises excitement, growth, and the pursuit of excellence. The team’s resolute aim to contend for the state championship remains unchanged, and under Coach Anderson’s guidance, fans can expect nothing less than a spirited effort from this remarkable group of young athletes.


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