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Central falls to Rapid City Stevens in soccer semifinals

Aberdeen Central’s Taryn Hettich, center, tries to kick the ball as Rapid City Stevens keeper Morgan Jost, left, pulls the ball away while the Raiders’ Shea Ellender, far right, looks on during Tuesday’s semifinal playoff match at Swisher Field. Photo by John Davis taken 10/12/2021

A promising start dissolved into yet another heartbreak for the Aberdeen Central girls’ soccer program Tuesday

.The top-seeded Golden Eagles snagged an early lead over fourth-seeded Rapid City Stevens in the semifinals of the Class AA state playoffs at Swisher Field, only to see the visiting Raiders score three unanswered goals to end the half — and with it, Central’s title hopes. Stevens rolled into the weekend championship with a 3-1 victory.

“We gave them a couple that we shouldn’t have in the first half,” said Central coach Merle Aske. “And once you’re down two, (Stevens) could basically just play everyone behind the ball.”

The day started innocently enough for the Golden Eagles. Taryn Hettich played a long through ball straight up the middle of the field for Morgan Fiedler, who collected it and fired a shot into the net with just over 35 minutes to play in the first half.

But then, things fell apart.

Stevens’ Breanna Reagan found the net with 22:41 to play and Chloe Van Heuvein played a pair of opportunistic balls — one, a rebound off a nice save by Central goalie Paige Burilovich and the other off a corner kick cross into the box — onto the scoreboard and by the time the half ended, the Raiders were up by a two-goal margin and could, literally, pack it in.

That’s exactly what the Raiders did, dropping upwards of eight or nine players in the box at times during the second half, making the scoring opportunities few and far between for the host squad.

Which is not to say that Central had no shot. With the wind mostly at their back in that second half, the Golden Eagles were able to create chances for themselves despite Stevens’ packed-in defense, but Raiders’ sophomore goalkeeper Morgan Jost served up denial in goal instead.

“We had a couple opportunities…that if we play them a little farther one way or the other, maybe it goes in,” Aske said. “But that’s part of being an athlete. These girls work their tails off every day. They showed up in July for camp. We started the first Monday of August and they’ve been working their tails off ever since. We got all the way to right where we wanted to be, and things just don’t go your way sometimes. We had a couple bad breaks and bad bumps, but these girls will go on and do a lot of great things in the future.”

Tuesday was not the first time that heartbreak has visited the Golden Eagle soccer program. Since winning the inaugural South Dakota state title in 2012, Central has finished as the runner-up twice, including during the 2019 season, and was prematurely ousted in the second round last season.

“It’s tough for our seniors,” Aske said. “They did a great job of leading us this year, and now for the girls coming back, this will be fuel to get ready for next year.”

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