‘We’ve come so far’: Mitchell’s seniors careers come to end after close loss to O’Gorman
Caroline Titze remembers at the start of her career when the Mitchell High School girls soccer team hoped to make the state tournament.
It had never made it to that point. But as the senior walked off Joe Quintal Field for the final time after a 2-1 loss to Sioux Falls O’Gorman on Tuesday, it marked the Kernels’ third consecutive trip to the state tournament to bookend the 11-player senior class’ careers.
The senior class not only helped Mitchell make the state tournament, but also powered it to back-to-back home playoff matches.
“If you just look at some of the scores from this year, all the shutouts that we had, we’ve come so far,” Titze said, referencing Mitchell’s eight clean sheets. “We used to hope for a playoff spot, and now we’re hosting a playoff match for the second time in a row. It’s incredible.”
The senior class helped the program make monumental strides over the last three years, even if one of their final goals of winning a playoff match fell out of their grasp.
After hosting a playoff match in 2019, the Kernels wanted to be competitive in every match this season. Other than losses to the top-two teams in Class AA -- Harrisburg (4-0) and Aberdeen Central (4-1) -- their only other regular season loss was 2-1 to Brandon Valley when leading scorer Mia Mullenmeister left with an injury. Even its loss to Aberdeen was a 1-1 tie at halftime that coach Bob Lemon felt showed its true potential. The Kernels finished 8-4-2.
“I think these seniors worked really hard, and this was kind of the pinnacle of their year,” Lemon said. “We played hard against some really tough teams. We won some games and certainly were in most of the games we played this year, and that was something that was really important.”
Tuesday’s loss was another close match, as Mitchell held off O’Gorman’s high-powered offense for much of the 80 minutes. Ella Bender scored in the first three minutes, but Mullenmeister answered right back for Mitchell. Libby Castelli’s goal with under 12 minutes to play left little time for an equalizer and proved to be the match winner.
“I wish we could have one more game, but if this is how it ends, I’m proud of what we did,” Titze said.
Titze added she felt the senior class staying together helped Mitchell reach unforeseen heights for the program. And even if it ended with a 2-1 loss, the progress is evident.
“I think we’ve come so incredibly far,” Titze said. “I’m really proud of my class. I think we’ve grown as a group and changed this program for the better.”
Lemon added: “The senior class means everything. These 11 girls have been the heart and soul of this team for six years. ... They showed leadership in practice and games, something that we’re really going to miss.”