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Central girls plan to reload on soccer pitch

Members of the Aberdeen Central girls soccer team work on a drill as head coach Merle Aske, background center, looks on during practice at Swisher Field last Thursday morning. Photo by John Davis taken 8/4/2022

Aberdeen Central lost some cornerstones of its girls’ soccer program to graduation, but that doesn’t mean the Golden Eagles plan to rebuild this fall.

“Every year we consider that we should reload,” said Central coach Merle Aske. “The girls have worked hard all summer. They’re getting ready to go and we’re getting into high school mode now, so they’re coming together.”

The Eagles have plenty of proven veterans up and down their roster.

Key members include seniors Alana Hansen, Claire Schaunaman, Courtney Nipp, Makylie Miller, and Taryn Hettich, and juniors Deshani Peters, Kailyn Poppen, Bailey DeGroot, Madison Hochstetter, Abi Witte, and Lauren Joosten.

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Central used its speed as an asset a year ago and will try to continue to do so again this season.

“We’re going to be pretty fast again, I think. The biggest thing is our control,” Aske said. “We’re going to try to get a lot more possessions in hopefully, as we’re going forward and make the other teams chase. We should be able to make the other teams chase us around and get them out of position so we can find those holes and split them.”

The Eagles will feature a blend of experience and youth. Central has five proven seniors to go along with a large junior class, and Aske plans to work some sophomores into the mix.

“Our junior class is pretty big. We have five seniors this year and they’re all going to be really good on the field, so now it’s a matter of getting them to all mesh together a little bit and then bringing a few sophomores up probably to get some playing time here and there,” Aske said. “The biggest key will be if we can stay healthy, but you’re never going to stay healthy the entire year, so it’s going to be those backup players that are going to have to be ready to step on the field when we need them.”

Central has proven to be among the elite Class A squads year in and year out. The Eagles lost in the finals three years ago and fell at home in the semifinals last season.

Aske said those post-season setbacks will have an impact on the players.

“Those kinds of losses will really motivate, especially the older players, because they know how close they were,” he said. “It’s tough to get all the way to the semis, let alone get to the finals. That’s going to be a motivating factor for them mentally.”

Members of the Aberdeen Central girls soccer team go through agility drills as the sun rises on practice at Swisher Field last Thursday morning. Photo by John Davis taken 8/4/2022

The Eagles have a busy schedule to start the season with three home games in the first five days. They host Spearfish on Friday, Douglas-Rapid City-New Underwood on Saturday, and Sioux Falls Jefferson on Tuesday.

While most of the players saw plenty of time on the pitch this summer, Aske said there is a difference between summer leagues and high school soccer.

“We have to get them into the high school mindset and get them into game shape a little bit, because the competitive soccer, where they have to go play three games in a weekend, is a lot for them, but they’re just trying to survive that stuff,” Aske said. “Here we have to be ready to be able to play 80 minutes hard, intense, the entire time. Now, it’s just a matter of getting our mental state where it needs to be and getting our physical state where it needs to be.”

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