Today's Class A girls soccer state tournament opener will match Bemidji's high-powered offense against Blake's defense which allowed only eight goals and shut out 13 opponents on way to an 18-1 record.
The lone team to score more than once against the Bears is Lakeville North which also handed Blake its only loss by a 2-1 score. Lakeville North is among the teams that qualified for this week's Class AA state tournament.
The Lumberjacks, who will take a 14-6 record into today's 5:30 p.m. game at St. Cloud State, have a high-powered offense keyed by junior Erin Booth who leads the team with 22 goals and 24 assists.
"From what we've been able to learn Blake has two All-State midfielders who are able to control the middle," Booth said. "Our goal will be to attack from the outside."
In the Section 8A title game Booth scored the game-winner with 1.5 seconds remaining in regulation. That goal provided a 3-2 win over East Grand Forks and sent a Lumberjacks soccer team into the state tournament for the first time in the history of either the boys or the girls program.
"I can't describe the feeling when the goal went it. It was awesome," Booth said following Tuesday's send-off pep fest at the high school. "The ball seemed to be in slow motion on that play and it just trickled in. That was an amazing finish to a section championship game."
Bemidji's one-two offensive punch this year also featured Josie Spry. The junior finished the fall with 20 goals and five assists. Unfortunately, Spry won't be in today's lineup as she stretched tendons in her knee during the section final. There also is fluid in the joint but, on the plus side, there is no damage to the ligaments.
"I'm out for this game," Spry said. "My job will be to cheer my heart out and my goal is to not have a voice when the game is over."
The two juniors expect to be nervous when today's game starts but plan to turn that feeling into a positive.
"Blake can be intimidating," Booth said of the team that was ranked second in the final Class A state poll. "But we need to turn that nervousness into excitement. We have tasted victory and we remember how it tastes. We have also tasted defeat and don't like that feeling. We want to taste victory again."
On paper the Jacks are the underdog but Spry doesn't put much credence into rankings.
"We were underdogs in most of our section games," she said. "But we showed that if we put our hearts into something everything is possible.
"Each year we say we are going to state but this year, because of the way this team bonded, we knew we had something special and different. During the season we saw what we were capable of doing. We saw we were capable of going to state," Spry added.
"No matter what happens (during the state tournament) we are very proud of what we have accomplished," Booth added.