Tanagers finish strong at state soccer tournament The Vermillion Lady Tanagers defeated Rapid Central 1-0 to claim third place in the Class A Consolation Division of the State High School Soccer Tournament last weekend in Sioux Falls. The win was particularly sweet for the Tanagers, who had lost to the Cobblers by the same score during the regular season.
The match was a defensive struggle throughout, and the Tanager backline of Kaylie Heesch, Jenna Gilkyson, Brittany Gilkyson, and Brittany Sand stifled the Rapid City attack for the full 90 minutes.
Sophomores Mara Johnson and Jamie Bernard also provided quality time in the back, proving that the Tanager defense will be a force to reckon with in upcoming years as well. Senior captain Tara Job added to her late-season offensive surge by netting the winning goal 20 minutes into the second half. Junior goalkeeper Kathleen Redlin earned the shutout with seven saves of Cobbler shots.
In earlier tournament play, the Tanagers began strong against Pierre but came up short by the score of 2-3. Striker Emma Erickson opened the scoring in the ninth minute when she blew past the Pierre defense and beat the goalkeeper with a lovely far-post shot.
The second Tanager goal came from sophomore Tasia Job after senior Jenna Gilkyson stripped the ball from the foot of a Pierre attacker and sent a fine pass to Carly Bernard, who then passed off to Job for the shot.
Despite conceding three goals in the match, the Tanager defenders denied Pierre its preferred left side attack and cross strategy and Pierre was fortunate to score twice from free-kick restarts.
Facing Watertown in their second match, both teams were greeted by a strong south wind that proved to be the biggest factor in the match. The Tanagers managed to score against the wind in the first half when senior midfielder Mandy Winckler found the net from 15 yards out.
The Tanagers began second half play expecting to attack steadily with the wind at their backs, but were surprised to encounter a determined Watertown team that was able to score a goal enroute to a 1-1 draw.
Senior defender Jenna Gilkyson was named as Tanager representative to the All-Tournament Team. She was recognized by her teammates and coaches for her consistent play and strong determination throughout the three tournament matches.
The Lady Tanagers finished the season with a record of two wins, five ties, and eight losses, Being the smallest school competing in the A Division, the team is proud of its ability to be competitive with the big schools.
"We had the opportunity to play in the B Division this year," said senior captain Brittany Sand, "but we wanted to finish our high school soccer careers playing against the best competition and we chose to remain an A Team."
Co-captain Tara Job echoed those comments. "It was more fulfilling for us to compete at this level, and have some success, that it would have been to drop down a class and dominate our opponents," she said.
Tanager Coach Jeff Pederson offered post-season comments. "We rebounded very strongly from last year, and but for an unlucky break or two we could have turned several of our ties into victories. Our seniors this year were the first individuals to complete four years of high school soccer, and each of them are a part of the legacy of class and character that is left behind."
Looking ahead to next year, Pederson points to the promise of the next outstanding Tanager striker in the form of Emma Erickson, who as an eighth-grader this year scored seven goals and had three assists.