Another season in the books for the South Dakota state girls soccer program the jackrabbits had a campaign at to remember returning to the NCAA tournament as we witnessed history. Brock Thompson continues to lead these girls into battle season in and season out. With plenty of new faces as well as several returning ones turned out to be a very special season for the jackrabbits. Some incredible highs and some real lows. Maya Hansen exploding becoming among some of the top 10 scorers in the nation as she continues to improve and get better as she is becoming an incredibly special player. Avery Murdzek strike but ended up on sportscenter’s top 10 coming in at number three on their list. An incredibly dominant season in which they had the most points and victories in a single season coming in second in the Summit League conference only to Denver. However still getting that Revenge from them later on winning the conference tournament to put them in the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years. Kayla Anderson Golden Goal in the 101st minute against Omaha University taking them to their Conference Final where they took out Denver dealing with the fire power of their front pair Sydney Sharpe and Natalie Beckman overcoming a 1st minute goal to punch their ticket to the NCAA tourney where everything went wrong in what was a humiliating experience in Malibu against a Pepperdine team that was just a level above despite that it was an incredibly special season for a team of girls that came together and made history the story may not have ended with a happy ending but they returned it to the tournament was incredibly important for a South Dakota State team that made school history.
The disappointment of missing out on the NCAA tournament last year was certainly difficult to take from a team that had so much quality. South Dakota State probably felt like they should have made the tournament but they came up short in the biggest moments against Denver their biggest conference rival over the last couple years. Not only that Denver made the NCAA tourney and beat Loyola Chicago in the first round and even gave North Carolina some trouble. It must have been difficult to take considering South Dakota state has only made it out of the first round once in 2008 during their first appearance in the NCAA tournament. However, the South Dakota State team was determined to get back to the show and get revenge on Denver that have been their thorn in the side. They ended up having arguably their best ever season looking like the favorites in the conference throughout the season with a good chance of capturing the conference title. It was just pure dominance. Led by Maya Hansen who during the season developed herself as one of the nation’s best players a true explosion from her last two seasons with 21 goal involvements with 14 goals and seven assists as college soccer were starting to see what I’ve always said Maya Hansen will play at the next level this was a make-or-break season for Maya for that to potentially become a reality even though she does have one more season left to go single-digit scoring wasn’t going to cut it as she put herself among the best. She became one of the 15–20 best players in college soccer she’s only going to continue to climb the ladder but still have a ways to go to reach the Mountaintop however she’s well on her way as Maya Hansen was the absolute truth for the jackrabbits all season long heavily relied on to supply the genius and the goal-scoring. However this season in particular she had more help ever had in past years. Incoming freshman Avery Murdzek had 13 goal contributions with six goals and seven assists including Landing herself on the ESPN top 10 with a strike from the gods.
Cece Limongi finally broke out during her senior season with an eight-goal four assist season as well as significant contribution across the board throughout what was a very deep Squad. South Dakota state picked up victories in the first five games Augustana, Texas Rio Grande Valley Idaho state, Hawaii and Hawaii Pacific all were victims of the South Dakota State attack led by Maya Hansen and the crew. However, Creighton University absolutely manhandled them and a dominating 3-0 victory for the devils. The formation and Squad rotation tactical ideas could have been brought into question considering this was the first legitimately strong team that they played there was a slight concern on how easy Creighton University made it look. The jackrabbits got right back on that horse through the next seven games Northern Iowa, Morningside, Northern Illinois, Airforce, Western Illinois, St Thomas, and Kansas City all were dealt with by South Dakota state. A tough 1-1 draw with Oral Roberts ended the winning streak but keeping their unbeaten run alive. Following it up with two more victories against North Dakota State and North Dakota earning seven clean sheets during that run. Late in the season they crumbled as my concerns only escalated despite my belief that this team can make the tournament. They lost to South Dakota then they beat Omaha and in Denver against the University of Denver their arch-rivals South Dakota State went down losing two of their final three games. Denver ended up capturing the conference but the conference Championship was still very much up for grabs. In the summit league tournament, a game that was going into extra-time play were rescued and saved by someone unexpected that wasn’t Maya it was my Prospect Kayla Anderson scoring in the 101st minute just scored her first goal of the season a golden goal that sent Omaha out and South Dakota State through to the final against yep you guessed it the University of Denver and opportunity for Revenge was there. In the final it could not have started worse the University of Denver scored in the first minute South Dakota State rebounded and went wild against Denver scoring four unanswered goals before Denver got a goal back at the very end silencing one of the nation’s best attacking Duos of Sharpe and Brockman. They punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament. Took on the number 4 seed Pepperdine a team that plays some of the best possession-based football in the nation the setup collapsed on itself after 23 minutes it was already over in Malibu Pepperdine committed an assault charge on the jackrabbits it turned out to be a 7-1 defeat in humiliating fashion. The reason why is clear but nonetheless it was a historic season school-record 17 victories as we saw incredible individual brilliance as well as team connectivity from the squad they should be incredibly proud of the season but the season did end with a bitter taste with another and see another tournament failure they did make the tournament for the second time in three years which is tremendous progress as the university has only made the tournament three times they’re doing something right clearly but it was a heartbreaking finish a dejected and devastated South Dakota State team leave Malibu without a performance to be proud of.
When Kayla Anderson and Maya Hansen join South Dakota state I made a promise to myself when I started to getting invested in this. I wasn’t going to allow my bias to prevent me from telling the objective truth. I have a lot of appreciation for Maya and obviously I have a tremendous amount of love for Kayla Anderson So if either Maya Kayla Anderson or The Operators out their social media have read this far this is being written out of someone who deeply cares about the program but also is a journalist and a writer covers so many different topics and throughout football, I would be selling myself short if I’m not honest I will be civil and respectful but there are things that need to be said.
Before Brock Thompson arrived, South Dakota state had been to the NCAA tournament one time since he’s been the primary decision-maker the culture of South Dakota state has changed. Brock Thompson as experience as an assistant with South Dakota state and has experience at other universities as he was the coach of North Dakota in the past as well as proving himself on high school level winning at the very peak of the powers. Things changed when he arrived, he’s been in charge for roughly five years his winning percentage and winning record in the conference is immaculate the only thing that really stands in his way is the University of Denver as always. He has gotten South Dakota state to the NCAA tournament twice. This season and two years ago against Oklahoma State there’s no denying that and I think he’s a tremendous coach that deserves a lot of credit Brock Thompson and I have a slight difference of opinion when it comes to Tactical ideas and formation as much as I respect what Brock Thompson does from a tactical sense, I just have a different idea about it. He deserves total respect for the job he is done he’s done exactly what has been asked of him.
The Back Three Does NOT work Pepperdine was Licking their Lips
I first criticized him after the game against Creighton University. Creighton University play the very aggressive style of play because of his formation and his Squad rotation was a little bit exposed after that game South Dakota State went back to winning. He occasionally rotates the squad but the starting 11 is very similar from week to week. Considering the depth of a have there should be more squad rotation Very rarely have I seen him adjust his formation will try different types of ideas. There had been a brilliant Tactical game against Omaha he made all the right decision and is largely responsible for them advancing there’s been a lot of games in which he’s been quite spectacular in the Tactical areas. Against Pepperdine his game plan was tactical suicide. Let me explain why to start with very few coaches and managers can Master a formation with a back 3 you always put yourself in a vulnerability to be exposed. Jose Mourinho in his prime, Antonio Conte and Diego Simone both have mastered this. Gianpaolo Gasperini and Simone Inzaghi also have used this formation. When you’re operating with a back 3 it is typical possession-based defensive type of football. If you attack the Way South Dakota state does the back three it is dangerous and it exposes you constantly if it is not perfected perfectly. Especially when you talk about Gasparini he has some of the best attacking options in Italy his defensive options are okay but they’re not great the way he approaches it is with aggression he concedes the fact that they will concede he just has full confidence that his team is going to outscore the opposition. In games like this against a team like this defending is so important
“Great defensive play is mostly organizational and positional in the modern game,” -Carlo Ancelotti
Why SDSU Should of Played a 4–4–2 vs Pepperdine
Mezzala8 Wrote an article 2020 Breaking down the 4–4–2 Defensively (Below)
“The fundamental component of defending is coverage of space, with compactness only being an element, albeit a significant one as it pertains to space in between the lines. Therefore, a conundrum arises as to how to reduce the size of available playing area in defence as to ensure compactness while maintaining sufficient coverage of the pitch.”
A frequent solution to this conundrum has been the 4–4–2 for three fundamental reasons:
1) Narrow wide players allow for central compactness.
2) Two players down the flanks and a shuttling midfield can help maintain horizontal compactness.
3) Central compression can be achieved through the two forwards and a zonal defence.
“The defending team wants to make the pitch as small as possible and force the opponent into tight spaces where players can quickly press and force a turnover. The easiest way to reduce the size of the pitch is to funnel the opposition out wide, where potential passing options are restricted both in quantity and in scope.
The 4–4–2 is effective at preventing central and half-space infiltration as the players remain protected throughout because of the central compactness provided by the narrow midfielders and forwards. Thus, they force the opponent to play through the flanks.
In this formation, the narrow central four simultaneously congest the middle of the pitch while also providing the potential to overload the opponent out wide due to having two dedicated players on the flank, with the other players subsequently shuttling over.
Shuttling is another crucial concept to understand when discussing the effectiveness of a 4–4–2. It is the collective movement of a team, typically towards the ball side with the intended purpose of reducing the size of the playing area, which consequently leaves another flank open.
This strategy is open to exploitation by technically and tactically proficient sides such as Maurizio Sarri’s Napoli who would frequently attack by baiting the opponent to shuttle to one side. They would often build play with short passing combinations on the left side, before subsequently switching it to José Callejón in space on the right flank.
However, axiomatic to the success of a shuttle is the closing down of passing options and the pressing of the ball which make it extremely difficult to play an accurate cross-field ball.” — Mezzala8
Under these Tactics Pepperdine wouldn’t have broken SDSU So Easily
I have never spoken to Brock Thompson but this could be his philosophy as well. However, you don’t play like that against Pepperdine. You never under any circumstance play a back 3 against a ball movement short passing attack team teams that mirrors Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona. The game plan did not work and there was no improvement as the game went deeper and deeper into it they were absolutely humiliated on the NCAA tournament that was the most goals Pepperdine has ever scored in the tournament. Is extremely dangerous to play just three center-backs against a team like that and it was on display constantly. When this game was going on I was actually in LA for a wedding watching this game on my phone I watched every minute. About 25 minutes away in Malibu Kayla and Maya and the jackrabbits were being ripped apart. Pepperdine world class the fluidity the ball movement the way they move from one side to another short passing attack complete possession control and then all of a sudden, they would snap and get into those dangerous areas with nothing to be done about it. The goalkeeper very rarely booted the ball down the field when she had the ball in her hands, she would just drop it to a Defender they played out the back and they move the ball so swiftly up and down that field. If South Dakota State played Pepperdine 10 times they would lose all 10 I’m not critiquing the fact that they lost Pepperdine went to the Sweet 16 beat a good NC State team and gave Florida State a game before going out. Its how they lost that is bothersome. They had scored four goals in the first 20-25 minutes they ended with seven and I think they were rather kind because they could have scored double-digits if they really wanted to. South Dakota state did get a goal in that game but the approach in regards to the game was all wrong considering the way Pepperdine the ball movement the fluidity The Possession dominated play playing out from the back building up into the attack when you play three centre-backs against that system you were going to get murdered it was tactical suicide at South Dakota state played with more protection at the back or more organization maybe they would only conceded three or four Brock Thompson is an excellent coach but this back three philosophy it’s just a mistake you have to be so precise for your system has to work perfectly if it is going to work they’ve been winning all year but the system hasn’t exactly been perfect there are flaws in it and against the right opposition they can be broken down for it again I think he’s got good tactical sense but I think when it comes to his formation and can set up sometimes he just gets punished for it and that happens to the best coaches in the world can get outclassed it’s not the fact that they lost the game When I saw Pepperdine was the opponent my heart sunk I don’t know if there was a way to beat them but they could have put on a better show they got embarrassed in the NCAA tournament that’s tough to swallow hopefully the girls took it all in mirroring the feeling so they don’t have to ever feel like that again but this game started and ended with the formation and the set-up you cannot play This Way against a team like this it was never going to work and largely is why they got humiliate the way they did I’ll say it again that approach that game plan was tactical suicide there was only one conclusion to setting the team up that way great coaches make mistakes and Brock Thompson certainly did he still a fantastic coach but he made a pretty horrific mistake against one of the best teams in the nation.
Pressure Should Mount but only Based on the Expectations: Final Year of Maya Hansen Don’t Waste it
I thought Brock Thompson did a really good job handling the media after that situation. He was incredibly profession he was very respectful towards the opposition while also feeling very prideful about the South Dakota State team. He changed the culture and became very important to the program however difficult questions are now going to need to be asked. South Dakota state has made the NCAA tournament twice in the last 3 years that is incredibly difficult to pull off and Brock Thompson definitely deserves credit for the part that he played in this. I think very highly of Brock Thompson even though we have different ideas Tactical he’s done tremendous job turning the program into what it is now but depending on the expectations a difficult conversation will have to be put into fruition. I don’t know what the artistic Vision or expectations as far as accomplishments and successes of the athletic director and the program. The expectation is making tournament on a regular basis Brock Thompson has absolutely nothing to worry about he should feel secure in his position. However, if the expectations are beyond that and the program has ambition to not only make the tournament but start winning in the tournament then he has a year maybe two years to fix it. In the two tournaments that he’s been in they were completely isolated by Oklahoma State and were dominated by Pepperdine neither of these performances we’re positive whatsoever and in both of the NCAA tournament games they played in there’s not a shred of positivity in there. Again, everything I’m saying here comes down to expectations if the expectation is just making the tournament that everything is fine if it’s more than that eventually they want to get to a stage where they can go and contend with at least making the sweet 16 the Elite 8 then Brock Thompson really needs his special sauce. If I was in charge of the girls’ soccer program, I would not make a change I think Brock Thompson should remain in his post and I would give him another two years to get out of the first round if their expectation is getting out of the first round not just making the tournament then there has to be a conversation about the pressure of this. It all comes down to the expectations however let’s just suppose for the sake of argument that the expectations are high if South Dakota state program is going to contend with the rest how would they change this? So they do to be more prepared for these situations next season and the year after the answer is actually quite simple. Right now, you’re entering the final season of Maya Hansen she will play at the next level this is a very special Talent you very rarely come across a player like this anywhere South Dakota State should be so grateful but she’s a part of the program she’s got one more year left a another first-round exits is not exactly what she needs or wants right now. Maya Hansen scored 14 goals and seven assists this season next year if she continues to work hard, I believe Maya will score 20 goals and have at least 10 assist she will be one of the best players in the nation next season. This is why there’s so much importance on the jackrabbits being prepared for this moment for the tournament for situations like this. Brock Thompson is probably keeping the back 3 but there is a way for him to keep the back 3 and not running into problems it just how he operates out of that so that’s going to come into it but you got to look at this from her situation she wants to get out of the first round she deserves it the level of player that she is not going to get all that often so you have to take every Advantage you possibly can when it comes to the Superstar Brilliance of Maya Hansen.
SDSU needs to Be more tested; Playing a More difficult Non-conference Schedule Would Help them go Further
South Dakota state needs to be challenged more frequently and more often throughout the season. The program needs to schedule them more difficult matches because if they continue to operate their schedule the way they have the last few years they’re going to continue get bounced in the first round because they’re going to get involved against a team but has a better game plan that they do and is much more talented than they are Pepperdine was always winning there wasn’t a way to beat them because they’re battle-tested and South Dakota State wasn’t really that the biggest problem. South Dakota State opponents in the regular season this campaign have a record of 121 wins 151 losses and 28 draws that is a winning percentage a 43% in addition to that the majority their opponents did not finish in the top two in their conference seven of their opponents had less then five victories only five of the teams that they played had double-digit wins on the season. There’s just a sense they need to be tested more than they have let’s take Pepperdine as an example. Their opponents had a record of 155 wins 112 losses and 25 draws. Among their opponents the defending national champions Santa Clara and one of the best teams in the nation TCU that won 18 games this season a BYU team that made the second round of the NCAA tournament it was a very difficult schedule that’s why they were battle-tested and that’s why they have a good chance of going deep in this competition. The winning percentage of their opponents was 57% that is 14% higher in South Dakota state they score of the seven against South Dakota state this was the reason other than the Tactical mismatch with the team’s they were having to deal with throughout the season. Scheduling more difficult games is the answer to the question how to get further that’s it had South Dakota State play the more difficult schedule they would have been more prepared for the tournament they play in a very winnable conference meaning you’re going to get into their Summit league tournament regardless because their conference record will be impressive. I am not suggesting that they should invite Florida State or Virginia to play against South Dakota state but I would consider scheduling Pepperdine on the schedule next season schedule matches against teams that will probably beat you but that you can hang with if you go up against like Duke, they beat you but it’s competitive that is only going to give them confidence for the rest of the season. They need to be taking team like Saint Thomas off the schedule they should not be playing against teams they can’t stand on the same field as them. I believe Brock Thompson an South Dakota State can turn this around and get to the second round he’s got it there he just needs to better manage his formation and his rotation next season you have Lauren Eckerle coming in a teammate of Kayla’s and someone that got White Bear Lake High School to the section final for the first time in 10 years Kayla Anderson played a big role for to score that big goal against Omaha in extra time with some of the upperclassmen graduating it gives opportunities to see Kayla Anderson and Catherine Jones be more involved in a team next year I think they will be ready it was an unbelievable season where they broke all these records but they shrunk in the biggest moment because of multiple things with a more challenging schedule next year and perhaps changing the formation occasionally will do well for them it was a great season they should be proud of it but I think everyone knows that they could have done up so much better. Next season if they handle themselves correctly and try to test themselves throughout the season will be much more prepared for the tournament as a fan that invested in this program I’m really excited what they can do in the coming season I just want to remind everyone that this was written out of passion and love and just because I have appreciation for this team doesn’t mean I won’t be objective about it I meant every word that I said in this article but it’s just my personal View on the collapse Pepperdine and what South Dakota State can do to avoid similar situations going forward.
If you disagree with anything that I have said I am always open for conversation but please be respectful if you are disrespectful you will be blocked so please be respectful if you’re going to challenge me on this .
Photos: Justin Tafoya/Clarkson Creative