The calendar said October, but the wind and snow that blew around Sioux Park Stadium felt more like December. Somewhere in the snow-globe, a state champion repeated as the Class AA girls' soccer state champions.
No. 1 seeded Pierre found the back of the net in second half twice and won its second straight state title Saturday, stopping No. 2 seed Rapid City Stevens 2-0.
"The weather was bad for both of us, and that just made it ugly soccer," Pierre coach Sidney Zanin said. "I figured if we could hang on in the first half and not let up any goals, then we had a better chance in the second half. In the first half we were making mistakes, so we adjusted that and we had the wind a little bit more in the second half and we capitalized on those opportunities."
The Raiders had three strong chances in the first half, even though it took a long time for both teams to find their footing. Both teams had members who slipped on the field, and the ball was not tracking well.
With the wind at its back Stevens had first half chances, but couldn't find the back of the net.
"I truly believe that the change in the weather favored the style of play Pierre does," Stevens coach Luis Usera said. "It took the advantage we were banking on, playing on a turf, and that just changes the style of play. We like to keep the ball on the ground, where Pierre plays more direct. We lost the advantage of turf, which neutralized that whole aspect of the game.
"Pierre played wonderfully. We had three great chances, they made it difficult to clear the ball out and they punished us when we made mistakes and that’s what great teams do."
After a free kick knocked off a Stevens defender, Governor Caytee Williams scored in the 45-minute mark to put Pierre up.
"It’s a great feeling. It was a struggle in the first half, but we pulled it together in the second to make it work," Williams said. "We did it for our seniors, we did for everyone."
In the 51st minute a corner kick was headed in by a Stevens defender for an own goal, which put Pierre up 2-0.
"This had been a generation that has been together since they were in car-seats, and I’ve been coaching them since they were little girls," Zanin said. "It’s a bunch of good, good kids and I’m so proud of them. It makes it so much easier to work with them when you know them personally and their families. For me it’s a dream come true."
Pierre's record at the end of its second straight championship season is 13-1-1, while Stevens finished the season 10-3-1.
Usera said after the game he told his players to take in the moment when the Governors were celebrating on the field at Sioux Park, because he wanted them to see what it would be like when they would get the chance to celebrate their own state title.
"Every minute we were out there those girls worked hard, they didn’t quit, didn’t question referring or the weather. I couldn’t be more proud of a group of girls," Usera said. "This season they kept getting better, working harder and working for each other. I know it was a great season to coach them and that they had a lot of fun. They deserved it, the senior leadership took this group further than anyone expected them to go."
Other state championship games Saturday from Sioux Park:
Girls' Class A
West Central 3, Tea Area 0: A stifling defense led the No. 2 seeded Trojans to their third straight title in a win over the No. 1 seeded Titans in the first game of the day from Sioux Park.
Bailey Nester got things going for West Central with a goal just minutes into the game, and at halftime the Trojans led 1-0.
In the second half, the West Central offense got going even more with a Rylee Hadelman in the 51st minute. Only two minutes later, the Trojans scored again, this time it was off the foot of Sydney Kurtz for the 17th time this season.
West Central finishes the season 12-2 while Tea Area finishes 11-2-2.
Boys' Class A
TEA AREA 4, SIOUX FALLS CHRISTIAN 0: In what a was a tight game throughout, three goals in the final 20 minutes put the No. 1 seeded Titans over the No. 3 seeded Chargers for the state championship.
Colby Fechner got things started when he took a pass from Justin Hohn and buried it, putting Tea Area up early in only the third minute. At halftime, the score was still 1-0.
In the second half the Titans got a goal from Wyatt VanTol in the 66th minute, and from there the floodgates opened.
VanTol scored again 72nd minute, and Fechner added one more to secure the state title for the Titans.
Tea Area finished 11-1 on the season while Christian finished 10-2-2.
Boys' Class AA
SIOUX FALLS WASHINGTON 3, ABERDEEN CENTRAL 0: In the snow and wind, the No. 2 seeded Warriors were able to use the wind to their advantage in the second half and claim a state title over the No. 9 seeded Golden Eagles.
It was the first half, however, when Washington did a lot of its damage. Going against the wind the Warriors still found the back of the net in the 36th minute when Abdisa Baneta scored.
In the second half it was Darius Cooper who scored in the 52nd minute, and then Cooper scored again in the 60th minute to put the game out of reach for Aberdeen.
The Golden Eagles finish 10-4-2 on the season while Washington finishes 13-1-3.