Team. Grit. Intelligence. Fierce.
Those words read by four young fans during Sunday afternoon’s welcome home ceremony for Yankton’s state champion girls’ soccer team underlined a point that the Gazelles would later experience first-hand.
Their title will reverberate for years to come.
As Yankton School District superintendent Wayne Kindle spoke during the celebration at the YHS gym, he invited four ‘Young Gazelles’ to the court to read those four words.
“When that next banner comes down, these girls and many more like them, will think of you,” Kindle said.
“Thank you for everything you’ve done.”
What the Gazelles did the previous day was beat Aberdeen Central 1-0 in the Class AA title game in Harrisburg. It was the first state championship in program history and will provide an inspiration to younger generations, the speakers said Sunday.
“You’re an inspiration to all the Gazelles, on and off the field,” head coach Tyler Schuring said.
“You’re great leaders.”
Following the ceremony, Yankton’s players posed for photos and signed autographs for the youngsters in attendance.
“It means a lot that they look up to us,” senior Madison Schroeder said.
“For me personally, it gives me motivation to do my best in everything.”
And motivation wasn’t an issue for this season’s team, according to Schuring.
He shared with the crowd the team’s main goals heading into the 2019 season, following a semifinal loss the previous year.
• Score 60 goals (the Gazelles scored 46)
• Record 10 or more regular season shutouts (there were 8, but 4 in the postseason)
• Win a conference championship (the Gazelles did that, for the second straight year)
• Win a state championship (mission accomplished)
Yankton also beat Tea Area, the eventual Class A champion, along the way, which prompted Schuring to tell the crowd, “They can truly call themselves the best team in the state.”
The four senior captains — Payton Wolfgram, Kelsey Oswald, Jaiden Boomsma, Sadie Fedders — all spoke to the crowd, as well, and among their thank yous was a shoutout to the crowd support throughout the season.
“I don’t know if people realize how much a crowd like that means to a team,” Boomsma said, in reference to the large Yankton contingent at the title game in Harrisburg.
Oswald pointed out that two years ago when Yankton was still playing its home games at Lewis & Clark Soccer Park, it was primarily parents lining the opposite end of the field.
“And now we get great crowds,” Oswald said.
“We would have mostly parents across from us on the sidelines, and now it’s the whole community,” she said.
“It means so much that they come out and cheer for us.”
Deb Lillie coached the group of 10 seniors when they were on Yankton’s junior varsity team the first year of sanctioned soccer, she told the crowd.
“They planned on being here, even when they were seventh graders,” Lillie said.
And now, that group has indeed ended their careers with a state title.
“You’ve backed each other, you’ve fought for each other and today, you can call yourself state champions,” Schuring said.
Follow @jhoeck on Twitter