VHS boys experience lows, highs at state soccer tourney

Vermillion's boys soccer team entered the state tournament as an unbeaten team at 7-0-3 and seeded second in the state on the strength of bonus points earned by their undefeated status.

The first two days at Mitchell last weekend brought the Tanagers disappointment, but the tournament and the season ended on a high note Saturday.  Vermillion defeated Custer, 2-1, to earn seventh-place honors and complete a fantastic season of eight wins, two losses and three ties.

"The team did not play in the first two games at the level it did during the regular season," Coach Carlos Telleria observed, "but the third game showed Vermillion performing as a strong team and, most importantly, with a lot of heart despite several players carrying injuries."

Four members of the Tanager team then received individual honors Monday when the All-State team was announced.  Senior forward Levi James and senior defender Camden Raizola were designated as first-team All-State players.  Junior defender Brendan Raizola and sophomore goalkeeper Alex Robertson were named to the honorable mention list.

Nathan Samudzi had the Tanagers' first goal against Custer, but they and the Wildcats entered overtime with the score at 1-1.  Levi James put the exclamation point on his superb senior season with a goal that gave Vermillion a 2-1 lead.  Then it was up to goalkeeper Alex Robertson to make a critical save two minutes into stoppage time, which followed the 20 minutes of overtime.  The referees' final whistle blew shortly thereafter, and the game belonged to the Tanagers.

On the tourney's opening day the Tanagers faced James Valley Christian, the eventual state champion, and lost 5-1.  Samudzi scored the Tanager goal.

In the consolation semifinal against Huron, Ethan James' header produced Vermillion's goal in a 3-1 loss to the Tigers.

The fact that seventh-seed James Valley won the state crown – 2-1 over Groton on penalty kicks following overtime – indicates the competitive balance statewide in Class "A" boys soccer.  Sioux Falls Christian, the top seed who lost 2-1 to Groton in the semis, settled for third in a 3-1 win over Sturgis.  Harrisburg tipped Huron 1-0 for fifth place.

"The boys evolved tremendously since last year, and every day that passes they are becoming better soccer players," Telleria said.  "I am very proud of their achievement."  VHS had 37 boys competing as varsity and JV teams this fall.

"We had a fantastic group of parents who helped with the logistics of the season and a great group of volunteers who gave time to help the team with conditioning and technical skill development," the coach added.  "Also local stores and the high school booster club supported the team.  On behalf of this wonderful group of boys who love soccer as a sport, I say 'thank you.'"

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