Fischer's Heroics in Goal, Harper's Late Equalizer End Match 1-1
Published May 27, 2023
Written By: Nichole Singleton | WPSL Communications


The Central Region’s Match of the Week had all the ingredients to meet its hype – and even exceed it. Nationally ranked Salvo SC (No. 11) hosted Sioux Falls City FC as the two each kicked off their 2023 season campaign. Salvo entered the match with two WPSL seasons under its belt while coming off an 8-0 undefeated 2022 season that saw a postseason berth. Sioux Falls City, eager to start its second WPSL season, hoped to replicate its inaugural league start that saw two wins and a draw in its first three games last year.

The starting lineups featured five returning players who were named to the Northern Conference’s Best XI selection last year – Hailee Fisher (Sioux Falls), Shyanne Reid (Sioux Falls), Khyah Harper (Salvo), Emily Heslin (Salvo), and Molly Fielder (Salvo). Fielder also earned Offensive Player of the Year for her 2022 performance in conference play.

Last season, Salvo outscored its opponents 29-3 while averaging 3.6 goals per game. As the first-half whistle sounded, the reigning Northern champions illustrated their experience by painting the field with high-tempo tactics in search of an early goal and the advantage.

Photo by:  Travis Gallipo

Salvo got the first shot off in the opening minutes with a fast counter that was deflected by the Sioux Falls backline. Not letting up, Salvo pressed the attacking third once more to earn the first corner of the game. Crossing into the box, the ball was broken up again by Sioux Falls’ defensive stance, but Sadie Harper (Minnesota) was ready for the rebound to put Salvo ahead but blasted her shot over the goal.

In the 12’ minute, Sioux Falls earned a free kick in Salvo territory just outside scoring range after a hard tackle near midfield. Sent into the box, the ball was broken up and gave Sioux Falls its first corner of the night. Letycia Bonifacio (Northwest Missouri State) collected the ball for a chance on goal but sent it over the crossbar.

At the opposite end, Khyah Harper (Minnesota) soared down the left sideline stretch before sending the ball into the box to connect the head of a teammate that appeared to be on target, but Sioux Falls keeper, Hailee Fischer (South Dakota State) got a hand on it.

With 20 minutes in, Salvo was controlling much of the match by stretching the field of play wide, but Fischer anchored the Sioux Falls backline with massive saves to keep the scoreline at zero. Sioux Falls held defensively and showed promise with developing plays on the counter and in the 21’ minute it paid off.

With the play coming down the sideline and into Salvo territory, Kirsten Wetterstrom (Southwest Minnesota State) threatened in the box – unmarked. Taylor Thomas gifted the ball right to Wetterstrom’s feet for an easy tap-in and, just like that, Sioux Falls had Salvo at the disadvantage.

Despite going down a goal, Salvo’s attack didn’t let up. The home side earned eight corners in the first half and had Harper threatening with deep crosses from 20-30 yards out. Fischer, however, wasn’t letting anything between posts with her heroic responses and Sioux Falls kept the lead heading into the break.

Photo by:  Travis Gallipo

The second half started with a momentum shift that saw Sioux Falls much more aggressive on the ball while controlling much of the tempo and possession. Its defensive hold felt stronger as it kept Salvo from reaching inside 20 yards of scoring territory. Sioux Falls also created more chances to increase its lead, but the shots were going over.

Salvo wasn’t completely on the ropes, however. As Sioux Falls gained aggression, Salvo saw more free-kick opportunities in its favor. Harper was fouled in the 62’ minute just outside the box to put Salvo right in scoring range. Trying to catch Sioux Falls unprepared, Salvo had two players fake the kick before the shot was off, but Fischer was unphased and caught the ball straight on.

This seemed to put a pep into Salvo and the shots kept coming as it finally broke through the attacking third. Harper got a shot on goal in the 70’ minute that went just wide and moments later another that was saved again by Fischer.

Sioux Falls’ aggressive push finally caught up as a tackle on Emily Heslin (Minnesota) from Thomas earned a yellow card in the 75’ minute. Ten minutes later, Sioux Fall interrupted Salvo’s rhythm to take the ball down the opposite side of the field for a chance at doubling the lead. With a shot on a through ball inside the box Salvo’s keeper, Peyton Cahill (Wake Forrest), collected the opportunity and prevented a greater deficit.

Moments later, Katelyn Beulke (South Dakota State), driving down the sideline, sent a ball into the box from the corner and hammered a header into the net, stunning Fischer and the Sioux Falls defense, to bring Salvo level with the late equalizer.

Photo by:  Travis Gallipo

Salvo, not satisfied and in search of the game-winner, posed another huge threat in the 89’ minute as Harper moved forward to find Alma Beaton (Minnesota) crashing the box with a shot on goal but Fischer comes up big to prevent the go-ahead tally.

Stoppage time gifted the home side one final chance as a foul in the box resulted in a penalty. Meredith Haakenson (Michigan) stepped up to take it but her shot goes wide left and the match ends in a 1-1 draw.

Both sides will play their next match Friday, June 2 as Sioux Falls hosts its home opener against Joy AC and Salvo welcomes expansion side St. Croix Soccer Club. Kickoff times are set for 7 PM CT.