Vermillion and Huron soccer players had to weather a beastly hot 95-degree day as well as each other Saturday in the high school season openers at Cotton Park. At the end of the afternoon the Tanagers left the pitch with a 4-1 win in the girls' game and a 2-2 draw in the boys' nightcap.
VHS teams have to make the trek to the Black Hills twice in the next three weekends, beginning with a trip to Belle Fourche for games tonight and back to Sturgis for Saturday contests.
On the Lady Tanagers' first offensive thrust down the field, senior Ashley Brunick scored in the second minute off an unassisted cross that came off one of the Huron defenders.
A half-hour later Tanager keeper Katie Wasley made one of five saves, diving to her left to block a Huron laser shot from the sidelines. Less than two minutes later the offense responded as senior Morgan Erickson, on a direct free kick, found Brunick, who placed the ball in the back of the net.
The Tigers crept to within 2-1 in the 44th minute on a close-in shot over Wasley's head, high into the top of the net.
Vermillion regained its two-goal lead 12 minutes into the second half when seventh grader Natasha Samudzi dribbled past several Tiger defenders and stuck the ball into the left corner of the goal. In the 40th minute VHS put the game out of reach when a bouncing ball in front of the net was tapped by Christine Epping to Teddi Settles, who slammed it home.
"Everybody was feeling the heat, but I felt our team was better conditioned and were deeper with girls on the bench," Coach Dave LaCombe noted. "The non-starters stepped up defensively and offensively for us."
LaCombe cited Tascha Donnelly, Erickson, Tracy Howe and Kortni Walker for a great job on defense, Shelby Gregoire and Samudzi for controlling the midfield, Brunick and Epping for using their speed to great advantage on the outside, and Settles and Shelby Gregoire for playing hard as strikers.
An intense half in the boys' game saw the Tanagers twice rally from one-goal deficits to deadlock the game. In the second half the midday heat began to take its toll on both clubs.
"Vermillion dominated possession of the ball, yet some errors were offset by Huron counterattacks," said Coach Carlos Telleria. "But for the first game of the season, our team was in formation and looked strong with great commitment."
Huron squeezed the ball between keeper Alex Robertson's legs for a goal in the fifth minute, but the Tanagers tied it up a minute later when Levi James slammed home the ball off a corner kick from Tanner Settles.
Some furious attacks on the goal by the Tanagers failed to produce results. Nathan Samudzi rocketed a head-on shot in the 11th minute which the Tiger keeper diverted over the crossbar. In the 32nd minute another Samudzi attempt slammed off the right post.
After Huron had taken a 2-1 lead, the Tanagers regained a tie when a soft seeing-eye shot off Ethan Druin's foot got past the Huron keeper.
Early in the second half what would have been a "Sports Center" type play saw Tyler Osborne take a throw-in from Eric Storm and just miss on a spectacular somersault header as the ball slipped just past the left post.
Telleria noted a record 37 players are out for boys soccer this fall. The teams returned to Cotton Park Sunday for an alumni game, an event they hope to make an annual event.
At the end of this season a major change will occur in the way state tourney teams are selected. In Class "A" boys there are 16 teams so eight single-game playoffs will determine the eight state qualifiers with No. 1 seed playing No. 16, No. 2 hosting No. 15, and so on. In the case of Class "A" girls where there are only 10 teams playing this fall, the top six seeds will automatically qualify for the state tourney, but the remaining four with play off for the two final spots with No. 7 hosting No. 10 and No. 8 hosting No. 9.