As the only West River teams heading into today’s state title games, both the St. Thomas More girls’ and boys’ soccer teams have some added pressure on their shoulders.
Fortunately, nerves won’t be much of an issue for either team as the Cavalier girls take on West Central and the boys play Tea Area.
Cavalier girls looking for seventh state title
For the girls, this spotlight is definitely something long time Cavalier head coach Doug Noyes is used to, considering this is his ninth title game in 16 years.
Even though STM has a 6-2 record in those matchups, this game feels a bit more like a rivalry.
“It really helps that we have played West Central before,” he said. “We have only played Tea once recently and they were just a big question mark for us. Whereas with West Central, we have played them three times since last year.”
In regards to the rivalry Noyes spoke of, the Cavs have some recent history with the Trojans.
History that goes back to last year’s playoffs, and the fact that West Central ended STM’s title chances.
More recently, the Trojans handed the Cavaliers one of their only losses of the season as they earned a 1-0 victory on a penalty kick in a game that was shortened due to inclement weather.
“If I were to talk about a rivalry, I would have to say West Central is our biggest rival,” Noyes said. “Over my 16 years of coaching, we have played them quite a bit. They’re well coached, and have consistently good athletes. So if there was a rivalry, it would be with them.”
The last time St. Thomas More won the state title was in 2015, one season after losing to Belle Fourche in the Class A championship game.
The loss must’ve lit a fire under that Cavalier squad, who came back and defeated Tea Area 10-1 to close out the season.
Two years later, STM is in a somewhat similar position and may be looking for a bit of revenge against a team that has beaten them twice recently.
Still, Noyes knows the best Cavalier team is one that plays their own brand of soccer and as long as they stay with that formula, he knows they’ll have no trouble in today's game.
“We’re going to go with what has worked for us,” he said. “We played them earlier in the year and we need to stay with that same plan. If we play as well as we know we can, we’ll beat them. If we don’t, it’s anybody’s guess because they are a good team. This is high school sports and it depends on who shows up. I have confidence in these girls and I know they’re going to show up.”
The Cavs (third seed) used their style of play to get past Belle Fourche in the quarterfinals (7-0), before dropping Tea Area last Saturday by a score of 2-1.
On the other side, No. 1 seed West Central defeated Vermillion 2-0 in the semifinals after having a first round bye.
St. Thomas More looks to pick up its seventh Class A state title when it takes on the Trojans today at 10 a.m. in Aberdeen.
“I’m blessed every year to have such a great group of kids and we’re excited for Saturday’s game,” Noyes said.
STM boys seeking first state title
Unlike the girls, the circumstances for the St. Thomas More boys’ team are a bit different heading into today’s state title matchup.
When the Cavaliers take the field against Tea, they will be competing for their first Class A state title in the school’s history.
Despite a lack of experience in the “big game,” STM carries the necessary tools to win a state title.
The Cavs, 10-2-1 in the regular season, have made it to this point with an offense that can erupt at any time, anchored by a stingy defense that keeps their opponent out of the net.
In the regular season alone, More scored 64 goals, while only giving up 10 in the process.
Cavalier head coach Pete Sales said his team looked confident as they wrapped up their final practice on Friday afternoon, and added that certain players are stepping up just as he thought they would.
It won't hurt to see a few players stepping up, considering the Cavs won't have a pair of key players today.
In the team’s semifinal victory over Hot Springs, Nate Skinner received a red card, while senior Brady Evans suffered a season ending knee injury, tearing his ACL and MCL.
While both players are important to the success of the team and Sales knew he’d have to make some adjustments, he also knows there are players on the team looking for an opportunity to step up.
“We have changed a few things with the injury to Brady Evans and the red card given to Nate Skinner,” he said. “Everyone is trained to do different things and I have faith in these guys. We’ve got guys that are just waiting to step up and fill that spot.”
A win won’t come easy for the Cavaliers as they take on the top-seeded team in the state.
Tea Area, which went 8-1-1 in the regular season, ran past Freeman Academy for a 4-0 victory in its semifinal matchup last weekend.
Similar to the Cavs, the Titans are pretty well balanced on both sides of the ball.
In the regular season and playoffs combined, Tea has only allowed eight goals, while scoring 44.
Although St. Thomas More hasn’t played the Titans since 2015, Sales believes that as long as the team plays the way they’re supposed to play, there shouldn’t be a problem
“The way I usually coach is just by having the guys do what they usually do,” he said. “If they do what they’re supposed to do and just get the job done it doesn’t matter who our opponent is.”
More importantly, Sales realizes how big this win would be for the school.
“I don’t think any of us could put into words what winning this state title would mean for this school,” he said. “I really couldn’t put it into words if I tried.”
The Cavaliers and Titans will take the field for the state title today at 10 a.m.
“Thanks to all the support from everyone in the area and the other teams that reached out to us and wished us the best of luck,” Sales said. “Sounds like the rest of Rapid City is behind us.”