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Mitchell United splits, MCHS forms own soccer team

The Mitchell United boys' soccer team is no longer united. Instead, this season Mitchell Christian will field its own boys' team, and the remaining players who attend Mitchell High School will play on a Mitchell JV team.

Former MHS girls' coach Bob Lemon will take over as the head coach at Mitchell Christian, and Scott Duff will coach the Mitchell JV team.

At the end of the 2007 soccer season, some of the players from Mitchell Christian who played on the United team felt it was time to compete in their own division. Many parents and families who follow Mitchell Christian sports felt the same.

When the idea came to split the teams, Lemon was asked to coach.

"I had some parents come to me, asking me about coaching," Lemon said. "I told them I wanted to know there was enough numbers (of athletes) to justify thinking about taking the position."

There was then an inquiry with the students to see if there was enough interest for Mitchell Christian to form its own team. At the end of last school year, a survey was taken by the students that showed there was plenty of interest for Mitchell Christian to form its own team.

The final decision to split Mitchell United occurred when Mitchell Christian applied to play in the Class A division of the South Dakota State Soccer Association earlier this spring. Once the application was accepted, Mitchell Christian told the Mitchell Soccer Association about the plan.

Duff decided about a month ago that the Mitchell soccer team would only field a JV team.

"I've got 15 kids that are 14-years-old or younger," he said. "They're young."

Lemon said he thinks the change will help both programs. He said the split will allow Mitchell to have a rebuilding year after losing many players to graduation.

Recently, practice has started and 15 new Mitchell Christian players are on the team, with a total of 21 players, only six were on the United team.

"Some kids were hesitant to come out simply because of the co-op," Lemon said. "Many of them didn't think they would play if they were on the team."

Lemon went on to explain playing in the Class AA level takes commitment. He said many of the United players played year round, and the reason so many new athletes from Mitchell Christian came out to play soccer was because they wouldn't have to focus solely on soccer.

"With about 50 kids in our high school. We have to be able to have multisport athletes, otherwise we wouldn't be able to field teams in other activities," Lemon said.

Mitchell Christian has been in a co-op with Mitchell since 2001. Before the teams grouped, Lemon coached Mitchell Christian from 1993-2000. He then coached Mitchell United for its first five years.

"I have a lot of respect for what United did in its seven years," Lemon said. "It did exactly what it was intended to do in raising the quality of soccer in the Mitchell area."