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Central girls ready to hit the pitch

Aberdeen Central girls soccer coach Merle Aske, center, talks to his players during a break in practice last week at Swisher Field. The Golden Eagles, rated fourth in AA poll, open their season Friday at Spearfish. Photo by John Davis taken 8/5/2021

The Aberdeen Central girls’ soccer squad may have lost some quality players to graduation, but the cupboard is far from empty as the Golden Eagles prepare for another campaign.

“We’re pretty excited about where we’re at,” said Central coach Merle Aske. “Now, it’s just a matter of putting a few tweaks here and there, and getting everybody on the same page and getting the mentality down.”

Aske said each year there are players in the wings waiting for their turn to shine. He said they realize what it takes once they hit the field.

“That was the thing last year, no matter which 11 players were on the field, the mentality and what we were doing didn’t really change much,” Aske said. “They’re all really athletic and they’re really focused. This is a program, it’s not a team. We just develop them from the bottom up. We expect to be competing at the top of the league every year.”

That was the case last year when Central entered the post season as the top-rated team. However, the Eagles fell well short in their quest for a state title.

“The girls take all that stuff in stride. It’s going to be a little bit of motivation. They have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder. When you go in as the number one team and get beat in the quarterfinals, that’s not what’s expected,” Aske said. “That’s the way soccer. Is. The best team doesn’t always win. When you don’t score one, no matter how many shots you take and how much you run over the other team, if they have one at the end and you don’t, you’re still going to lose.”

This year’s squad will be led by returning starters Paige Burlivich, Morgan Fiedler, Alyce Laverdure, Makylie Miller and Taryn Hettich. There is also plenty of talent to join them on the pitch.

Aske knows that the Golden Eagles will be a fast-moving group on offense. He just wants to make sure the defense will be retooled in order to keep opponents in check.

“Speed of play is going to be real important. We don’t want anybody to hold on to the ball and be stationary. If we’re stationary it’s very easy for the other team to defend it,” Aske said. “We lost enough on the defensive end. It’s going to be a matter of how quick we can get those to gel, because we don’t want to be in a situation where we have to outscore people 6-4.”

Central, rated fourth in the Class AA pre-season poll, starts its season on the road this weekend with games against Spearfish Friday and Douglas on Saturday. Aske said the season will be a work in progress.

“We have to be all engaged and going the same direction. We take every game in stride,” he said. “It’s just like any other sport, you have to build from the bottom up. Every game you have to get better.”

The bar is always raised high for the Central girls’ soccer program and this year will be no different.

Aske said most of the goals are understood from day one.

“I’ve never really been one to preach goals. We talk goals, but basically, our goals are understood,” Aske said. “We want to be at the top of the (Eastern South Dakota) conference, no lower than third. We want to be in the conversation at the end of the year for a state title run.”

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