Two weeks ago the Rapid City Stevens boys' and girls' soccer teams lost to their cross town rival, Rapid City Central. Tuesday night, as they celebrated their seniors at Sioux Park Stadium, the Raiders were able to avoid season sweeps.
The Stevens girls' team scored a goal in the 76th minute to top the Cobblers 2-1, while the boys' game ended in a eventful 1-1 tie.
Stevens girls' coach Luis Usera said the loss his team experienced to the Cobblers two weeks ago might have been the best thing that could have happened to it.
"We needed to lose against Central in that first game. You never want to lose, but we needed that," he said. "Our trainings have been more intense, the focus has been more, and we came out a completely different team than the first time, and Central didn’t quit, they didn’t give up against us. When they did score, you could see an aura in them like, we can pull this out."
The Raiders got off to a fast start, controlling possession for the first 20 minutes, and in the seventh minute Lexie Wood was able to find Bryanna Kuhn for the first and only goal of the half.
Wood would end her final regular-season home game as a Raider with two assists.
"It feels amazing. This is exactly what we worked for and what we wanted since the last game didn’t go the way we wanted," Wood said. "We worked really hard, fixed our mistakes from the last game, and we’re happy with the outcome. (The last loss to Central) motivated us so much. We remember that feeling we had walking off the field. We just worked so hard everyday not to feel that again."
In the second half, it was Central that applied the pressure.
"I’m happy with the girls, they played a good game," Central coach Mark Morgan. "The Raiders made some adjustments this time and we handled it better the first game than the second game, but going into the second half, we played better, we made some adjustments."
In the final 12 minutes the Cobblers really started to pressure Stevens, and it finally resulted with the equalizer in the 72nd minute.
Karoline Riisnaes played a free kick into the box, where Hayleigh Young tapped a pass to Kylea Becker, and she put it into the net to tie the game.
Still, Stevens didn't give up.
In the 76th minute, Wood was fed a pass and played a through-ball to Riley Schad, who put it into the net for what would be the game-winning goal.
"I think every team needs that going into the playoffs," Usera said. "I think it was really valuable for them to see that they had it in them, and they didn’t quit. That last 12 minutes Central was pushing on us pretty hard. Mark’s got those girls working really well, they transition really well, so I’m proud that the girls were able to keep it out of the net, and put it into the net without quitting."
Although the Cobblers couldn't make it a series sweep over their cross-town rivals, Morgan said he knows this loss might sting for 24 hours, but he doesn't expect it to derail his team.
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"These girls carry their own internal flame," he said. "This will be disappointing. We won one and lost one to the Raiders, but we didn’t get blown out. The girls will be disappointed this evening and we’ll get right back to practice and prepare for state. They’ll be fine."
Stevens, 7-2-1, closes the regular season with Spearfish Saturday, while Central, 5-3-2, ends the regular season on the road against Belle Fourche Saturday.
Raider boys coach Dave Sharp said his team has made substantial improvements since they lost to the Cobblers 3-2 two weeks ago.
Although Stevens wasn't able to get the win, he said he's been impressed with the growth he's seen since that loss.
"The guys played outstanding, it was a great game, a lot of heart," he said. "We had great possession. I felt like we should have won the game, but we had some unfortunate breaks. We definitely outplayed them today."
The Cobblers depth was tested as Garrett Cole went down with an ankle injury early in the game, so coach Joe Sabrowski was happy Central could work a tie.
"I thought we were a little out of sync," he said. "We had to make adjustments and figure out who to put where and how to keep pressure on the ball, and when we put pressure on the ball, we created opportunities. To hang on and pull the tie off was critical. It was a good mental victory to come back and do that."
Stevens came out aggressively in the game, but at the half there was still no score. That changed in the 54th minute when off a corner kick, the Raiders' Tyler Bradley took a shot on goalkeeper Dawson Fairchild, Cayden Heinert was there for the rebound to put Stevens up 1-0.
"Back-to-back saves by the keeper in the box, how many more times does he have to take a direct shot before one of our guys clears it? And they score because the ball is bouncing around in there," Sabrowski said with a smile. "Those are the kind of goals we've been giving up, right in the box. (Fairchild) is doing his job, he played great tonight and took a beating."
Central responded with a brothers goal, as in the 66th minute Jaden Stephens fed Jory Stephens, and Jory put the goal home to tie the game, which is how it would end.
After falling to Central two weeks ago, Sharp said Stevens, 6-3-1, has gotten better everyday.
"Especially here at Stevens, they're not used to losing, so when you lose it hurts," he said. "The great thing is they get more determined to work hard. It is motivation for them."
Stevens closes the regular season by hosting Spearfish, while Central, 5-2-3, travels to Belle Fourche. Both games are Saturday.