VERMILLION — ‘One second faster.’
That’s the mindset the South Dakota soccer team will take into the 2019 season after a historic first season of the Michael Thomas era a year ago.
Sure, it’s coachspeak, Thomas jokes, but the hope is that the Coyotes are able to take things one step further in his second year.
“Last year being the first year, we did a lot in broad strokes,” Thomas said this week. “What we’re looking for now is to be able to nail down that detail and do the same things we did, but do them a second faster.”
The Coyotes, who had their best season in the Division I era (with a 9-7-2 record) a year ago, open this season Friday at home against Idaho State at 4 p.m. at First Bank & Trust Soccer Complex.
Not only did USD statistically break certain team records like highest shooting percentage, fewest goals allowed and lowest opponent shooting percentage, it saw Taryn LaBree earn first team All-Summit League and third team All-West Region honors — the first Coyote to capture either recognition.
And so, all in all, Thomas’ first year in Vermillion saw plenty of history.
What will year two bring?
“It has its own challenges, but things are easier because the women are doing things for the second time now,” Thomas said. “Everything comes at them a little faster now.”
Of course, there’s also the challenge to keep things fresh, he added.
“People have heard the same speeches before and gone through the same drills before, so we as a coaching staff and as a group ask ourselves, ‘How can we continue to have that same excitement level?’”
LaBree headlines a returning core of seniors that will set the tone this season. LaBree scored a team-high six goals along with three assists, and is joined by Amanda Carpio (4 goals), Kellee Willer (3 goals, 7 assists, second team all-Summit), Makenzie Burmeister, Taylor Kelly and Courtney Stodola.
“We have some seniors in this group who have been big-time players and leaders for us,” Thomas said. “They’re a big influence on this team, so we’ll get to carry that part over.”
Four of the five juniors on the roster scored a goal last season, and that group includes Maddison Sullivan (2 goals), Alexis Mitchell (1), Abby Ostrem (1), Dani Brown (1) and Sunny Huettner.
One of the top stories from a year ago was the play of the freshman class, and Thomas said the hope is that those players continue progressing. That sophomore group includes Tiannah Moore (5 goals), Joana Zanin (4 goals, 3 assists), Taylor Cotter (2 goals), Lindsay Farrell, Jordan Centineo, Teresa Fontenot, Grace Mancy and Emma Harkleroad.
“As with any group of freshmen, the challenge for them is to build on it and say, ‘I’m not content; I want to be something new and different,’” Thomas said.
The Coyotes also brought in a freshman class of nine players, including last year’s South Dakota Gatorade Player of the Year in Lexie Wood (Rapid City Stevens) and former Pierre standout Emily Mikkelsen.
During the non-conference portion of its schedule this season, USD will host Utah State, Northern Iowa, Eastern Washington and New Mexico State. Its Summit League showdown with South Dakota State will be played in Vermillion on Oct. 27, while SDSU will host the Summit League Tournament from Nov. 7-9.
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Aug. 17 at Creighton (exh) L 0-1
Aug. 23 vs. Idaho State 4 p.m.
Aug. 25 vs. Utah State noon
Aug. 30 at Loyola Chicago 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 1 at Ill.-Chicago noon
Sept. 6 vs. Northern Iowa 4 p.m.
Sept. 15 vs. E. Washington noon
Sept. 17 at Drake 6 p.m.
Sept. 19 at Wyoming 8 p.m.
Sept. 22 at No. Colorado 1 p.m.
Sept. 26 vs. N.M. State 4 p.m.
Sept. 29 at Kansas City 1 p.m.
Oct. 4 at North Dakota 3 p.m.
Oct. 6 at N.D. State 1 p.m.
Oct. 13 at Purdue Fort Wayne noon
Oct. 20 vs. Denver 1 p.m.
Oct. 24 vs. Omaha 3 p.m.
Oct. 27 vs. S.D. State 1 p.m.
Oct. 31 at Oral Roberts 7 p.m.
Nov. 3 vs. Western Illinois 1 p.m.
Nov. 7, 9 Summit League (Brookings)