BHS soccer teams host alumni Saturday
BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji High School varsity soccer teams will host their alumni Saturday at the middle school pitch.
The annual event will begin at 10 a.m. when the Lumberjacks boys team meets its alumni. The girls game will follow at noon.
"This is a fun day and a way for us to get a look at the players in a more competitive setting than just a practice," said BHS boys coach Rick Toward. "It also is an opportunity for the alumni to return and renew their connections with the program."
Toward expects about 40 former players to return for Saturday's game and he is looking forward to testing his varsity against the alumni.
"This is a win-win for everybody," he said. "The alumni usually wins the game but the coaches do have the chance to see this year's players in a competitive situation. The alumni also get to reconnect with Bemidji and the soccer program and that helps us keep the lines of communication open."
BHS girls coach Kelly Schoonover also looks forward to the annual contest.
"It's a great opportunity to bring the soccer community together and to test the varsity players," she said. "It is a good introduction to the season."
The girls team has been practicing since Monday and Schoonover has liked what she has seen.
"This is a good group of girls," she said. "We have a strong group of returning seniors so the core of the varsity is back. We lost only three girls from last year and we also have many skill players in the eighth and ninth grades and that means that the program is in very good shape."
In 2011 the girls team advanced to the state Class A tournament for the first time in the program's history. The path to the state meet became more treacherous this year, however, because the BHS girls program has been elevated to the Class 2A ranks by the Minnesota High School League officials.
The boys program remains in Class A and will continue to battle its main nemesis, St. Cloud Cathedral, for the state berth.
The girls, however, now belong to Section 8-2A which also includes Brainerd, Buffalo, Elk River, Moorhead, Rogers, St. Cloud Tech and St. Michael-Albertville.
Both programs will remain in the Lakes to Prairie Conference along with Crookston, Detroit Lakes, East Grand Forks, Hillcrest Lutheran Academy and Walker-Hackensack-Akeley.
"The high school league bases a team's section by enrollment and we were moved up to Class 2-A by one or two students," Schoonover said. "Now we will be the smallest school in our section and it will be tough for us to compete against those larger 8-2A schools. Those schools usually have 80 girls out for soccer while we have about 30.
"I'm expecting us to do very well in the conference again but our section will be very tough," Schoonover added.