By Luke Schweitzer, Assistant Sports Information Director
RAPID CITY -- - The South Dakota School of Mines men's soccer team is excited to have found a home in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) for the 2013 season. There has been a buzz around the campus and the Black Hills area following the official league announcement Tuesday.
In particular, members of the Hardrocker soccer team are thrilled to have an opportunity to showcase their abilities in a reputable and recognizable conference while they compete for a conference title and an opportunity to represent SD Mines in the NCAA National Championships.
"Being in a conference gives us new opportunities," said Hardrocker freshman Andreas Skau, a Chemical Engineer major from Bergen, Norway. "It will be nice to have a normal schedule with a set number of home games. This will make balancing our school load and soccer much easier."
The Hardrocker soccer team is very aware of the competitive level of the GNAC as the team took on two conference opponents during their inaugural season --- Montana State University - Billings and University of Mary (N.D.).
"The importance of each game has increased and we will really need to be ready to compete in each game and play to our fullest potential," said SD Mines freshman Eric Milbrandt a Mechanical Engineering major from Groton, S.D. "I am eager for the opportunity to play in front of even more people and for our team to be recognized throughout the Rocky Mountain Region, the Pacific Northwest Region and the Nation."
Being in the Great Northwestern Athletic Conference adds legitimacy to the Hardrocker soccer program. It gives the team a chance to play in the post-season as the first-year program continues to develop.
"I'm excited because we have an opportunity to play for a championship," said SD Mines freshman Gabriel Dahmke, a Civil Engineering major from Sheridan, Wyo. "The level of competition will bring the team to new heights."
The Hardrockers have been working hard to improve their strength and overall cardiovascular endurance since the conclusion of their 2012 season. The Hardrocker coaching staff is instilling in their student-athletes the understanding that a college soccer player generally will improve the most in between their freshman and sophomore season.
"Being in a conference gives us extra motivation to work hard in the nontraditional season," said 'Rocker freshman Derek Szanto, a Mechanical Engineering major from Temecula, Calif. "I am excited to continue to grow and develop into a complete player over the next months leading up to the start of the fall season."
The SD Mines soccer players will be exposed to rare opportunities most students do not have the opportunity to experience. The Hardrockers are fortunate enough to see different parts of the U.S. and receive the full college athletic NCAA Div. II experience.
"Being in the GNAC allows for new experiences to travel and appreciate different areas of the country," said SD Mines junior Bennett Medeck, an engineering major from Rapid City, S.D. "The opportunity to travel adds to our student-athlete experience at South Dakota School of Mines. I am excited to make a mark for our soccer program and our institution across the country."
During this exciting time for the Hardrocker soccer program, there will be more announcements and soccer news to come in the next few weeks.