BEMIDJI – Maria McLeod’s first-ever collegiate goal was a sweet one for the Bemidji State soccer team.
The sophomore from White Bear Lake found the back of the net on a header in the 23rd minute of the Beavers’ season opener against Northern Michigan, and the Beavers held on to win 1-0.
“It’s great to get our first win,” McLeod said. “They’re definitely a big team but we have a lot of speed so we were able to use that to our advantage today.”
The Wildcats (0-2) actually outshot the Beavers (1-0) 15-5 in the first half and 20-12 overall.
“I think they had most of the first-half shots,” BSU head coach Jim Stone said. “We were fortunate enough to get a few counters and score one. It could have been a high scoring game. It easily could have been 3-1, 2-1 at halftime.”
But on an blustery day, wind was a major factor and most of Northern’s shots never found their way into the hands of BSU goalkeeper Sonja Barr.
Then again, neither did most of BSU’s. McLeod said she was glad to find an opening on NMU keeper Shelby Conard.
“At first I got one shot off and it went straight at the keeper,” McLeod said. “I didn’t know if we were going to get a lot of chances. So I wanted to make sure we finished everything.”
The next time she got her chance, she made the most of it, with help from Mary O’Brien and Emily Olson.
“Mary took a girl on, brought it to the end line and crossed it over me,” McLeod said. “Then Emily crossed it back in and I was able to get a head on the ball. I was in the right place at the right time.”
The Beavers hung on in the second half with better defensive pressure. They also outshot the Wildcats 7-5.
“They weren’t as able to get into the attacking space,” Stone said of the second half. “I thought we did better with defensive shape in terms of where we were pressuring the ball and what outlets we were making available.”
Barr ended the game with the win in goal for the Beavers, making four saves, while Conard took the loss for Northern Michigan. She also made four saves but allowed one goal.
Stone said the win over Northern Michigan was encouraging after the Beavers struggled in their exhibition season. They were shut out in each of their first two matches, against Division III schools Concordia-Moorhead and St. Thomas. Before rebounding with a 3-1 win over St. Catherine’s.
“It was good for us,” he said. “We needed some confidence, especially after we struggled in the exhibition games.”
The Beavers return to the pitch at 1 p.m. today to take on yet another nonconference opponent from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in Michigan Tech. The Huskies are also 1-0 after beating Minnesota Crookston Saturday afternoon.
Bemidji State 1, Northern Michigan 0
NMU 0 0 – 0
BSU 1 0 – 1
BSU – McLeod (O’Brien, Olson), 23:13.
Shots (On Goal) 20 (4) 12 (5)
Saves 4 4
Fouls 5 13
Corner Kicks 5 6