As the defending state champs, the Golden Eagles will be going for their second straight state title in the two-year history of South Dakota High School Activities Association-sanctioned soccer. Central also won the last state club title in 2011.
"Whenever you're coming back from a championship, everyone puts your game on the calendar as a game they really want to excel at and play their best and try to win," said Central head coach Merle Aske.
Thus far, the Golden Eagles have risen to the occasion and carry an 8-0-4 record into this week's state tournament. Top-seeded Central will play St. Thomas More (8-4-2) in the state semifinals at 5 tonight at Swisher Field in Aberdeen.
Aberdeen Central, which has outscored its opponents by a 42-8 margin during the regular season, will carry the same pressure-oriented mindset into the weekend.
"The best way we feel to keep pressure on the other team is to be in their end and be shooting on their goal," said Aske. "If they're defending shots, they're not trying to get down and score."
While the Golden Eagles have been prolific in the scoring column, Aske credits his defensive unit for keeping the team organized and in position to put tallies on the scoreboard.
The defensive back line consists of Alison Byrd and Alexis Nelson in the middle with Rachel Hagen and Sarah Rohrbach manning the outside backer positions. Brooke Braun is the goaltender.
"They're the leaders on the team," said Aske. "Even though we're scoring a lot of goals, it starts with the defenders in the back, talking through the process and getting the ball where it needs to go."
Key for the Golden Eagles will be the way they handle the down moments when things aren't going their way.
"When adversity comes around, it's really easy to get down on yourself and get down on your teammates, and that's the biggest thing for us, just to handle the adversity when it comes," said Aske. "Because you know it's going to come."
Adversity is not a new concept for the Golden Eagles. They lost leading scorer Paige Sommers to injury for the season in the first half of a match last month against Sioux Falls O'Gorman. Central ended that game in a 2-2 tie, and have gone 2-0-2 in the four games since. The Golden Eagles have scored 11 goals in that stretch, allowing just two.
Forwards Michaela Tofflemeier and Sarah Borchard have taken on most of the scoring duties since Sommers' injury.
"Those two have really took it upon their shoulders to work their tails off," said Aske. "You're not going to replace Paige, but they're doing their best to make sure that, when the ball's in front of the net, that they're there to finish."
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