No longer can Yankton fly under the radar.
Not when your defense allowed seven goals all season. Not when you won the conference title. Not when you came within a game of reaching the state finals. Not when you lost a total of zero players.
That’s the situation facing the Yankton High School girls’ soccer team: The Gazelles enter the season — at home today (Friday) against Sioux Falls Lincoln at 4 p.m. at Crane-Youngworth Field — as one of the favorites in Class AA.
“They were hunting last year and now they’re probably going to be the hunted,” head coach Tyler Schuring said. “It’s a little bit of a different position.”
Yankton (11-3-2), champions of the Eastern South Dakota Conference, lost in the state semifinals a year ago 1-0 to Rapid City Stevens. The Gazelles had five players named all-conference and four named all-state, and they also didn’t graduate a single member.
“People know we didn’t lose anybody, so they’ll be watching us,” said senior defender Kelsey Oswald, a second all-state selection a year ago.
“We’ll have to come out the same as we did last year and show them what we can do.”
What Yankton did last year was dominate the pace of play with its effective and stingy defense.
The Gazelles allowed four goals in 14 regular season games and then gave up three goals in the playoffs, and finished with nine shutouts on the season. Goalkeeper Sadie Fedders, now a senior, recorded 70 saves and was fronted by a defense that has spent many years playing together.
“I think a big part of why it worked so well is because we’re so closely knit and we’ve done it together for so long,” Oswald said.
Forward Jaiden Boomsma (Sr.) scored a school-record 16 goals and added six assists to lead the Yankton attack, while she and midfielder Payton Wolfgram (Sr., 8 goals, 4 assists) both earned first team all-state honors. Oswald and fellow defender Morgan Strahl (Sr.) both earned second team all-state recognition — that foursome, along with Fedders, were also named all-ESD.
The rest of the senior class includes Cecilia Kouri, Madison Schroeder, Madison Wuebben, Emmerson McClure and Hannah Muth.
The seven juniors on the varsity roster include Emma Christensen, Megan Cap, Thea Luken, Leona Stastny, Molly Vornhagen, Kylie Bochman and Rachel Hebda. The sophomores include Abby Schmidt, Cora Schurman, Callie Boomsma, Kate Beeman, Makiya Ray and Madisyn Bietz.
A team that was already close got even closer over the summer with a tournament in Minnesota and a team camp at the University of South Dakota, for example, according to Schuring.
“Last year was a journey for them and a confidence builder,” Schuring said. “Now they’re coming into the season with more confidence and with even more chemistry.”
It’s also a team that knows full well the position it’s put itself in heading into this season, according to Wolfgram.
“This year, we’re definitely going to have a target on our back just because we were so successful,” she said. “We’ll have to carry it over and be that much stronger.”
The key for the Gazelle is to not be overconfident, Wolfgram added.
“It’ll be a different feeling, but you just can’t get too nervous and let it get to you,” she said. “If we just play and have fun and do what we’ve always done, we’ll be better off.”
The first round of the Class AA playoffs will begin Oct. 8 and the final round will be held Oct. 19 in Harrisburg.
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2019 Season Schedule
Aug. 16 vs. SF Lincoln 4 p.m.
Aug. 20 at Harrisburg 6 p.m.
Aug. 22 at Mitchell 6 p.m.
Aug. 27 at SF Washington 4 p.m.
Aug. 29 vs. SF O’Gorman 6 p.m.
Sept. 3 vs. Brandon Valley 4 p.m.
Sept. 7 vs. Watertown 2 p.m.
Sept. 14 at Aberdeen Cent. 3 p.m.
Sept. 17 at SF Roosevelt 6 p.m.
Sept. 24 vs. Brookings 6 p.m.
Sept. 26 vs. Tea Area 6 p.m.
Oct. 1 vs. Pierre 6 p.m.
Oct. 5 at Huron 11 a.m.
Oct. 8 First Round
Oct. 12 Quarterfinals
Oct. 15 Semifinals
Oct. 19 State Final (Harrisburg)