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Lumberjacks gain state for first time in history

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sports Bemidji, 56619

Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

With the final seconds ticking away and the Section 8A girls soccer championship game knotted at 2-2 Bemidji left defensive winger Kiah Hartung delivered a pass from midfield toward the East Grand Forks net.

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"The ball came through the middle to me and, since we only had a few seconds left, I just sent it toward the net," the senior said. "My kick fell just in front of the net. Then I saw Erin (Booth) give it a header, the East Grand Forks players swarm the net and the ball trickling past their feet."

After what seemed like an eternity, and with a mere 1.5 seconds remaining in regulation, the ball finally crossed the goal line and the Lumberjacks officially were headed to the state tournament.

"It was a very exciting moment," Hartung said. "When the ball crossed the line we all started screaming. We knew we set history. No other Bemidji High School soccer team, girls or boys, has ever been to the state tournament."

Lumberjacks coach Kelly Schoonover didn't see the winning goal because she was planning strategy for the inevitable overtime.

"I had grabbed by notepad and was figuring out our lineup and how we were going to play in the overtime so I never saw the winning play," Schoonover said. "After the game I asked Erin how she scored and she didn't know. She just said the ball hit her and went in."

During the regular season Bemidji and EGF split two games. The Green Wave spanked the Jacks 9-2 in early September but two weeks later Bemidji turned the tables, edging East Grand Forks 2-1 in Bemidji.

Thursday's contest mirrored the latter game as each offense manufactured a handful of scoring chances and managed to cash in on a couple of them.

"When East Grand Forks scored within the first five minutes I was worried," Schoonover said. "We didn't want to give them an early lead.

"But the girls came back, gave the extra effort and eventually tied it."

The tying goal came at the 21-minute mark when Booth sent a free kick to Caitlin Blotske and, after faking out the goalie, the senior slipped a shot into the net.

Late in the half Josie Spry, the team's second-leading scorer, injured her knee and was sidelined for the rest of the game. Spry planned to see a doctor Friday to determine the extent of the injury.

"When Josie went down it put a damper on things," Schoonover said. "But this team has always overcome adversity and I hoped we would again."

Spry's absence provided an opportunity for Rachael Bitter to contribute and the eighth grader did her part. Bitter immediately became a vital weapon in the attack and early in the second half her efforts paid dividends when she notched her second goal of the season by kicking home a header pass from Booth.

Now owning the lead Schoonover and her players kept an eye on the clock.

"As the time wound down and we were still ahead 2-1 I tried to work the clock," Schoonover said. "But then they scored with two minutes left and it looked like we would be in another overtime.

"I really didn't want to play overtime because East Grand has more depth," the coach continued. "During the game they would substitute about eight players every 10 minutes so they had fresher legs. I think our girls could have found a way to win in overtime but it would have been hard to stay with East Grand."

No one will ever know if the tired Lumberjacks would have had the stamina to stick with the Green Wave, however. Hartung's pass and Booth's goal in the final seconds eliminated the need to find out.

As the third seed in the North half of Section 8A Bemidji was forced to overcome the top teams in the section to reach the state.

The journey began with a 3-0 victory over Hillcrest Lutheran Academy which was the sixth seed from the North. That game also represented Bemidji's lone home appearance during the section tournament.

The next challenge was Alexandria, the No. 2 seed from the North and BHS squeaked out a 1-0 triumph. Sartell, the top seed from the South was next on the list and the Jacks scored in overtime to post a 4-3 victory.

East Grand Forks was the No. 1 seed from the North and was the two-time defending section champion.

"When the section tournament began we knew that we should win the first game but after that we weren't sure how things would go," Hartung said. "We just took things step by step.

"But on Thursday in the championship game losing wasn't an option. We had come too far," Hartung added.

The state tournament field was finalized Friday when St. Peter and Mankato West met for the Section 2A crown. Mankato West is the section's third seed and St. Peter the fifth seed.

The Section 1 representative will be Rochester Lourdes while Blake is the Section 3 winner, South St. Paul the Section 4 champ, Totino-Grace the Section 5 representative and Benilde-St. Margaret's the Section 6 winner.

All of those teams were the top seeds in their section tournaments.

Esko-Carlton, the third seed in Section 7, blanked top-seeded Chisago Lakes 2-0 Thursday to win that title.

The coaches of the state tournament squads will have a conference call today to seed the top four teams. The remaining four teams will be matched against the seeded squads by a luck of the draw.

The hope of the seeding process is to enhance the chance that the top two teams will meet in the championship game.

The state tournament schedule is still up in the air. There are four quarterfinal sites (Hopkins, Park and Roseville high schools plus St. Cloud State) which will host the girls and the boys quarterfinal games at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

The rest of the tournament will be at the Metrodome with the semifinals listed for Oct. 31, the third-place game for Nov. 1 and the championship for Nov. 3.

"It's been a long but exciting year," Schoonover said. "The tournament banquet is Sunday and we're looking forward to that. We'll relax for a few days and hit it hard again on Monday. We are exhausted but that's a nice problem to have because we're headed for the state tournament."

Bemidji 3, East Grand Forks 2

Bemidji 1 2 - 3

East Grand Forks 1 1 - 2

First Half

EGF-Pickard (Piche) 4:30

B-Blotske (Booth) 21:18

Second Half

B-Bitter (Booth) 48:25

EGF-Boushey (unassisted) 78:02

B-Booth (Hartung) 79:58

Class A Championship Games

Thursday's Results

Section 1: Rochester Lourdes 2, LaCresent 0

Section 3: Blake 1, Holy Angels 0

Section 4: South St. Paul 1, New Life Academy 0

Section 5: Totino-Grace 1, Monticello 0

Section 6: Benilde-St. Margaret 3, Holy Family Catholic 1

Section 7: Esko-Carlton 2, Chisago Lakes 1

Section 8: Bemidji 3, East Grand Forks 2

Friday's Game

Section 2: St. Peter vs. Mankato West

Y pmiller@bemidjipioneer.com

With the final seconds ticking away and the Section 8A girls soccer championship game knotted at 2-2 Bemidji left defensive winger Kiah Hartung delivered a pass from midfield toward the East Grand Forks net.

"The ball came through the middle to me and, since we only had a few seconds left, I just sent it toward the net," the senior said. "My kick fell just in front of the net. Then I saw Erin (Booth) give it a header, the East Grand Forks players swarm the net and the ball trickling past their feet."

After what seemed like an eternity, and with a mere 1.5 seconds remaining in regulation, the ball finally crossed the goal line and the Lumberjacks officially were headed to the state tournament.

"It was a very exciting moment," Hartung said. "When the ball crossed the line we all started screaming. We knew we set history. No other Bemidji High School soccer team, girls or boys, has ever been to the state tournament."

Lumberjacks coach Kelly Schoonover didn't see the winning goal because she was planning strategy for the inevitable overtime.

"I had grabbed by notepad and was figuring out our lineup and how we were going to play in the overtime so I never saw the winning play," Schoonover said. "After the game I asked Erin how she scored and she didn't know. She just said the ball hit her and went in."

During the regular season Bemidji and EGF split two games. The Green Wave spanked the Jacks 9-2 in early September but two weeks later Bemidji turned the tables, edging East Grand Forks 2-1 in Bemidji.

Thursday's contest mirrored the latter game as each offense manufactured a handful of scoring chances and managed to cash in on a couple of them.

"When East Grand Forks scored within the first five minutes I was worried," Schoonover said. "We didn't want to give them an early lead.

"But the girls came back, gave the extra effort and eventually tied it."

The tying goal came at the 21-minute mark when Booth sent a free kick to Caitlin Blotske and, after faking out the goalie, the senior slipped a shot into the net.

Late in the half Josie Spry, the team's second-leading scorer, injured her knee and was sidelined for the rest of the game. Spry planned to see a doctor Friday to determine the extent of the injury.

"When Josie went down it put a damper on things," Schoonover said. "But this team has always overcome adversity and I hoped we would again."

Spry's absence provided an opportunity for Rachael Bitter to contribute and the eighth grader did her part. Bitter immediately became a vital weapon in the attack and early in the second half her efforts paid dividends when she notched her second goal of the season by kicking home a header pass from Booth.

Now owning the lead Schoonover and her players kept an eye on the clock.

"As the time wound down and we were still ahead 2-1 I tried to work the clock," Schoonover said. "But then they scored with two minutes left and it looked like we would be in another overtime.

"I really didn't want to play overtime because East Grand has more depth," the coach continued. "During the game they would substitute about eight players every 10 minutes so they had fresher legs. I think our girls could have found a way to win in overtime but it would have been hard to stay with East Grand."

No one will ever know if the tired Lumberjacks would have had the stamina to stick with the Green Wave, however. Hartung's pass and Booth's goal in the final seconds eliminated the need to find out.

As the third seed in the North half of Section 8A Bemidji was forced to overcome the top teams in the section to reach the state.

The journey began with a 3-0 victory over Hillcrest Lutheran Academy which was the sixth seed from the North. That game also represented Bemidji's lone home appearance during the section tournament.

The next challenge was Alexandria, the No. 2 seed from the North and BHS squeaked out a 1-0 triumph. Sartell, the top seed from the South was next on the list and the Jacks scored in overtime to post a 4-3 victory.

East Grand Forks was the No. 1 seed from the North and was the two-time defending section champion.

"When the section tournament began we knew that we should win the first game but after that we weren't sure how things would go," Hartung said. "We just took things step by step.

"But on Thursday in the championship game losing wasn't an option. We had come too far," Hartung added.

The state tournament field was finalized Friday when St. Peter and Mankato West met for the Section 2A crown. Mankato West is the section's third seed and St. Peter the fifth seed.

The Section 1 representative will be Rochester Lourdes while Blake is the Section 3 winner, South St. Paul the Section 4 champ, Totino-Grace the Section 5 representative and Benilde-St. Margaret's the Section 6 winner.

All of those teams were the top seeds in their section tournaments.

Esko-Carlton, the third seed in Section 7, blanked top-seeded Chisago Lakes 2-0 Thursday to win that title.

The coaches of the state tournament squads will have a conference call today to seed the top four teams. The remaining four teams will be matched against the seeded squads by a luck of the draw.

The hope of the seeding process is to enhance the chance that the top two teams will meet in the championship game.

The state tournament schedule is still up in the air. There are four quarterfinal sites (Hopkins, Park and Roseville high schools plus St. Cloud State) which will host the girls and the boys quarterfinal games at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

The rest of the tournament will be at the Metrodome with the semifinals listed for Oct. 31, the third-place game for Nov. 1 and the championship for Nov. 3.

"It's been a long but exciting year," Schoonover said. "The tournament banquet is Sunday and we're looking forward to that. We'll relax for a few days and hit it hard again on Monday. We are exhausted but that's a nice problem to have because we're headed for the state tournament."

Bemidji 3, East Grand Forks 2

Bemidji 1 2 - 3

East Grand Forks 1 1 - 2

First Half

EGF-Pickard (Piche) 4:30

B-Blotske (Booth) 21:18

Second Half

B-Bitter (Booth) 48:25

EGF-Boushey (unassisted) 78:02

B-Booth (Hartung) 79:58

Class A Championship Games

Thursday's Results

Section 1: Rochester Lourdes 2, LaCresent 0

Section 3: Blake 1, Holy Angels 0

Section 4: South St. Paul 1, New Life Academy 0

Section 5: Totino-Grace 1, Monticello 0

Section 6: Benilde-St. Margaret 3, Holy Family Catholic 1

Section 7: Esko-Carlton 2, Chisago Lakes 1

Section 8: Bemidji 3, East Grand Forks 2

Friday's Game

Section 2: St. Peter vs. Mankato West

pmiller@bemidjipioneer.com

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