No. 1 USD football qualifies for FCS playoffs

The University of South Dakota football team engineered a remarkable turnaround in just its second season under Coach Bob Nielson.

The Coyotes, who were 4-7 last season, won their first six games and rose to No. 4 in the FCS rankings and although they lost four of their last five received an at-large berth to the FCS playoffs. USD won a first-round game at Nicholls and nearly pulled off a miraculous rally before falling at Sam Houston State in the second round.

Senior quarterback Chris Streveler was named the Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Player of the Year and a first-team Associated Press FCS All-American. Streveler is one of three finalists for the Walter Payton Award, given to the top player in the FCS.

This season, Streveler broke conference and school records for total yards (4,854) and passing yards (4,134). He accounted for 43 touchdowns, which ranked second nationally in points responsible for.

Senior offensive guard Stetson Dagel was a second team All-American while sophomore defensive end Darin Greenfield made the third team. After having no preseason All-MVFC picks, Streveler, Dagel, Greenfield, junior safety Andrew Gray and senior long snapper Brandon Godsey were each named to the first team.

2. Musketeers win Anderson Cup, make Clark Cup finals

Winning the Anderson Cup for the first time since 1986, Coach Jay Varady’s 40-13-7 Musketeers established a team record for the fewest goals allowed (125), thanks to goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks, who set individual records for wins (36), goals-against average (1.85), save percentage (.932) and minutes (2,991).

Among the defensemen playing in front of the USHL’s most valuable player was team captain Jacob Wilson (6 goals, 18 assists). First-round draft pick Matt Hellickson (6, 22) also looked solid on the blue line along with Carson Vance (2, 25).

Veteran forwards Eeli Tolvanen (30, 24), Phillip Knies (21, 21) and Brian Rigali (10, 20) were among the offensive leaders along with newcomers Kristian Pospisil (15, 25) and Aapeli Rasanen (7, 18).

The Musketeers swept Des Moines in the Western Conference Semifinals, then reached the Clark Cup Finals for the first time since 2005 with an 8-3 Game 5 win over Waterloo at the Tyson Events Center. Goals in the final three minutes of the third period from Pospisil and Tolvanen highlighted a dramatic 5-4 Game 4 win at Chicago that sent the series back to Sioux City.

Two days after the Musketeers lost 2-1 in overtime in front of 6,309 fans, Kivlenieks signed a free agent contract with the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. Then in late June, Tolvanen became the Musketeers’ first-ever first round NHL draft pick, signing with the Nashville Predators.

3. Sieperda, G-LR/CL win state titles

Gable Sieperda full-filled his goal of becoming a state champion when he won the Class 2A state cross country title in an all-class best 15:18.6 on a brisk day at Lakeside Golf Course in Fort Dodge.

Sieperda, a four-time medalist, turned into cheerleader after finishing the race to see juniors teammates Joe Anderson and Blake Johnson cross in third and sixth place, respectively. The strong top three allowed the George-Little Rock/Central Lyon team to come away with the program's first-ever state championship.

Sieperda was the dominant runner in Class 2A all season and it showed at the state meet with his 45-second victory and moving into the top 20 all-time in state meet course times.

Josh Haken, the only other senior on the seven-man squad, finished in 30th place. The other members included juniors Taeron Olson and Zach Springer and sophomore Brayden Stoecker.

4. SB-L has year to remember

Seargeant Bluff-Luton sports programs had quite a year.

The boys basketball program played for its first state title and came up just short in a 54-49 loss to Cedar Rapids Xavier as both Chris Kroll and Jackson Wright were named to the all-tournament team.

The wrestling team won the MRAC dual and tournament titles on its way to having a pair of state placewinners in Brayden Curry and Kyle Benson.

In the spring, the Warriors defended their 4x400 relay crown, just their fourth state relay title in school history, in a time of 3:20.67. SB-L finished fourth in the team standings. Senior Miles Scott finished fifth at the state cross country meet as the Warriors finished ninth as a team.

Sergeant Bluff-Luton's football team had a perfect 9-0 regular season to win its district and advanced to the quarterfinals.

The Warrior volleyball team reached the Class 4A state championship match for the first time in school history before falling to Dubuque Wahlert 23-25, 25-7, 25-16, 19-25, 15-8. SB-L finished the season 42-4 after entering the campaign unranked.

5. West Sioux football claims first title

The Falcons not only cleared the quarterfinal hurdle that had tripped them up the previous two seasons, but West Sioux went on to capture the Class A state champion with a 35-14 victory over Hudson.

The first football title in school history was delivered by a group of record-breaking players. West Sioux, which finished 13-0, set the 11-man state record for points scored in a 13-game season with 721 and 207 in four playoff games.

Running back Jake Lynott finished second in the state with 2,620 yards -- the Class A leader -- while averaging 12.1 yards per carry and amassing 36 touchdowns. He finished as the career rushing leader for the Hawarden school with 4,129 yards.

Sophomore quarterback Hunter Dekkers threw for 2,396 yards, 33 touchdowns and five interceptions. Junior Chase Koopmans led the team with 61 receptions for 978 yards and 10 touchdowns.

6. Siouxland has four state volleyball finalists

It was a Northwest Iowa first, as four schools competed on Championship Friday at Cedar Rapids’ U.S. Cellular Center. Fourth-ranked Sergeant Bluff-Luton made a strong bid to win the 4A title match, before falling in Game 5 to No. 2 Dubuque Wahlert.

Top-ranked Sioux Center was swept in the 3A final by No. 3 Waterloo Columbus, No. 1 Dike-New Hartford swept and prevented No. 2 Western Christian’s bid for a 2A three-peat while No. 3 Le Mars Gehlen was swept by Hudson in the 1A final.

Three of the four schools reached the title match with five-game semifinal victories, Sergeant Bluff-Luton, Sioux Center and Le Mars Gehlen. MRAC champion Sergeant Bluff-Luton and Siouxland Conference champion Sioux Center reached the finals for the first time in school history while Gehlen, a 3-2 first-round winner, was in the finals for the first time since 2011.

Sioux City Journal volleyball player of the year Ashtyn Veerbeek, Class 2A’s leader with 550 kills and 133 blocks, was the offensive and defensive leader for Western Christian (39-7), whose coach, Tammi Veerbeek, was bidding to equal the record of 11 state championships won by Dubuque Wahlert’s Tom Keating.

7. USD men’s basketball wins Summit

South Dakota came out of nowhere to win the Summit League men’s basketball regular season title for the first time. The Coyotes, who were picked to finish last, or near the bottom of the conference, by nearly every preseason publication, won 22 games for the first time in seven seasons, captured the Summit League title with a 12-4 record and received its first bid to compete in the postseason NIT.

Four of five starters were competing in a Coyote uniform for the first time after transferring to USD. The three players who got the most playing time off the bench were true freshmen.

South Dakota took a six-game win streak into the Summit League tournament and won its first game over Western Illinois. The Coyotes had a 16-point lead on South Dakota State in a semifinal but the Jackrabbits won on a last-second shot.

In the NIT – USD’s first postseason appearance since 2010 – the Coyotes fell to top-seeded Iowa 87-75 in Iowa City.

Craig Smith was named Summit League Coach of the Year and District 12 Coach of the Year by the NABC. Sophomore Matt Mooney and senior Tyler Flack earned first team All-Summit League honors and the Coyotes claimed three of the five spots on the league’s All-Newcomer team.

8. Corey Matthey makes history

Corey Matthey became the first player in Morningside College men’s golf history to survive the 54-hole cut in a national tournament.

Matthey, a freshman from Sergeant Bluff, shot 73-78-75 in the first three rounds of the NAIA National Championship at TPC Deere Run in Silvis, Illinois. He added a 78 in the final round, tying for 23rd individually. TPC Deere Run is the home of the PGA Tour John Deere Classic.

Matthey was the Great Plains Athletic Conference individual medalist. He went on to enjoy a productive summer on the links, earning Sioux City Journal Player of the Year honors for the second consecutive year.

9. Allard ends West Sioux's drought

The freshman became the first West Sioux wrestler to win a state title in 50 years when he beat Lisbon's Cobe Siebrecht 5-2 to claim the Class 1A 106-pound crown.

The Falcons had to wait 25 years between finalists since Mike Huitnek stepped on the mat on a Saturday night at the state tournament. The wait was even longer for a state champion, a feat that had not been accomplished since Lenny Liston's win 50 years ago.

Allard finished his freshman season with a 47-1 record. His lone loss came in his first high school tournament to Nebraska's Blake Jackson of Millard South, a loss he avenged at the same tournament a year later by pin.

10. KP/WC wins state track title

In the Kingsley-Pierson/Woodbury Central's eighth season as a combined track team, the squad came away with its first state title, sharing the 2A championship with Madrid. Each scored 61 points over the three-day competition at Drake Stadium in Des Moines.

Seven individuals, scoring in eight events, accounted for the 61 points led by four-time medalists Alec Still and Eric Hoffman. Still won a state title in the 800 where Hoffman as fourth while the pair combined with Anthony Baird and Payton Kuchel on a runner-up 4x800 unit.

Still anchored a distance medley relay quartet that included Ben Burbach, Coby Fischer and Kuchel to a state runner-up finish while added a fifth in the 400. Hoffman, the runner-up in the 1,600, ran on a seventh-place 4x400 along with Burbach, Baird and Kuchel. Nick Phelps claimed the state discus title for the second straight season and was third in the shot put.

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