VHS soccer teams finish seventh, eighth at tourney

Vermillion's girls won seventh place and the Tanager boys finished eighth in their respective state tournaments in Aberdeen last weekend.

Terrible field conditions, wind and unseasonably cold weather plagued all three days of the tournaments, which were won by St. Thomas More's girls for the third straight year and the Sturgis boys.

The Tanager girls lost their opener to Harrisburg, 7-2, after leading 2-1 and then losing a pair of key defenders due to illness. Vermillion fell to Sturgis, 2-0, in the consolation semifinals, so Saturday's win in the seventh-place contest was extremely satisfying.

"It was a sweet victory for our girls," said Coach Dave LaCombe after VHS won a spine-tingler in a shootout over Sioux Falls Christian. "We were playing in adverse conditions, and girls on both teams had to endure cold, wind and snow."

Megan Bottolfson scored Vermillion's initial goal, and Christian tied it up early in the second half. The game continued at 1-1 through regulation time and two scoreless overtimes, setting the stage for a shootout of penalty kicks. Bottolfson and Lacey Leichtnam scored for Vermillion, and Christian's PK artists also made two of their shots, so the score was tied until Vermillion's last kicker, Hannah Nehlich-Arobba worked the ball past the SFC keeper to win the game, 4-3.

The Tanagers, who finished the season at 4-7-1, received more accolades later when it was revealed the VHS team was the recipient of the Sportsmanship Award for the third time in the program's history. It was also the third time a LaCombe team has won the award – twice with VHS and once as a Yankton coach.

"This is an honor to receive such a prestigious award," LaCombe said. He credited his seniors – Bottolfson, Leichtnam, Hannah Nehlich-Arobba and Sophie Nehlich-Arobba –who as co-captains brought leadership and guidance to his team.

Meanwhile, the Vermillion boys opened tourney play with a strong performance as the eighth seed against top-seed Sioux Falls Christian. The Tanagers played SFC to a tough 2-1 final score in Christian's favor. Levi James scored the VHS goal off a cross from Tanner Settles.

In the consolation semifinals Custer dealt a 3-0 loss to the Tanagers, who then lost to Groton, 4-1, in the seventh-place contest. Tim Tigert scored the Vermillion goal. Alex Robertson was in goal for all three state tourney games.

The boys' varsity loses only three players to graduation this year – Parker Erickson, Tim Tigert and Rory Rich.

Seven Vermillion players earned recognition when the All-State teams were announced.  On the girls' side Hannah Nehlich-Arobba was named first-team All-State, Sophie Nehlich-Arobba second-team All-State, and Lacey Leichtnam and Megan Bottolfson honorable mention. On the boys' All-State squad, Levi James, completing an outstanding junior season, earned first-team All-State honors, Eric Storm was picked for the second team, and Tigert was accorded honorable mention.

Custer won the Sportsmanship Award for the boys' "A" tournament.

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