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Eric Christensen goes out on top, Harrisburg wins state title

Tim Tushla
South Dakota Public Broadcasting

In what was Eric Christensen’s final game as the head coach of Harrisburg, the Tigers successfully defended their state championship from a year ago with an 8-1 win over Mitchell in the 2023 ‘AA’ girls title match.

Coming into the game, coach Christensen had already announced that he would be stepping aside following this season’s campaign to follow his daughter Hailee’s college career in Brookings next year at South Dakota State University.

“It’s my last ride, and I guess when I took over the program it hadn’t had many wins and I thought I could come in and build a culture of teamwork and focus,” explained coach Christensen. “We have a bit of a ‘row the boat’ culture here where we’re all in this boat together, and I think what I enjoy most about it is proving to these girls if you come together, work together, you can do great things together, and I think these guy’s proved it here tonight again.”

One of the main story lines coming into Saturday night’s matchup was Hailee Christensen of Harrisburg and Mia Mullenmeister of Mitchell. The two grew up together play rec ball in Mitchell, and both are two of the best girls soccer players in the state.

It was clear Mitchell’s plan was to contain and defend Christensen, which opened other scoring opportunities for the Tigers. Jaylee Hofer ended up with four goals throughout the game, two in the first half and two in the second half.

Hailee Christensen and Ella Walton also had first half goals for Harrisburg.

Mitchell’s Mia Mullenmeister did find the back of the net in the second half to give Mitchell their lone goal in the matchup.

Ella Weide and Brynn Skogen also scored second half goals for the Tigers.

With roughly five minutes to play, coach Christensen put all of his seniors into the game to give them one final moment together.

“They were my first class. We had a great first season, a lot of them started or played at the varsity level their freshman year, and to be able to go out with them, and go out on this note, it’s pretty awesome,” Christensen exclaimed. “It feels great. I think it’s the reward for all the effort that these girls have given. Not just this year, but for the four years I’ve been here in Harrisburg.”

Harrisburg will graduate eleven seniors this coming spring. As for what’s next, Christensen mentioned he has confidence in his assistant coaching staff and that the future is bright for the up-and-coming generations of Tigers soccer players.

Nate Wek is currently the sports content producer and sports and rec beat reporter for South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He is a graduate of South Dakota State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism Broadcasting and a minor in Leadership. From 2010-2013 Nate was the Director of Gameday Media for the Sioux Falls Storm (Indoor Football League) football team. He also spent 2012 and 2013 as the News and Sports Director of KSDJ Radio in Brookings, SD. Nate, his wife Sarah, and two kids Braxan and Jordy, live in Canton, SD.