SOCCER: Bemidji State women open NSIC playoffs at Upper Iowa
BEMIDJI – Like most goalkeepers, Sonja Barr hates playing from behind.
“I usually don’t like it when they score first,” the BSU sophomore said with a laugh. “But that is kind of the trend this year.”
Of Bemidji State’s 10 wins, four have been of the comeback variety. And both of their ties have required late rallies.
This weekend, Barr made some big saves to help the Beavers get two comebacks and secure an NSIC playoff spot.
The sophomore from Duluth made seven saves in Friday’s 2-1 win over St. Cloud State – a BSU comeback victory – before coming back Sunday and making a career-high 12 saves as the Beavers rallied to tie Minnesota-Duluth 1-1.
“I think against St. Cloud, being home was a big advantage for us,” Barr said. “We probably had one of our better games of the year. It was a big change coming from a four-game losing streak, so I think having that confidence to play against St. Cloud really helped us against UMD.”
Mary O’Brien and Hillary Archigo both scored Friday night, and O’Brien also tallied the game-tying goal Sunday. She leads the team with 10 goals and 24 points.
Barr’s solid weekend, combined with O’Brien and Archigo’s comeback goals, means the Beavers (10-6-2) will take on Upper Iowa (14-2-2) at 2 p.m. today in Fayette, Iowa, in the first round of the NSIC playoffs. It’s BSU’s fourth-straight playoff berth.
“She played her best weekend of the year so far,” BSU head coach Jim Stone said of Barr. “She was really consistent with catches. Her positioning was good and she saw a lot of shots.”
Against Minnesota-Duluth, the sophomore turned away 10 shots after the Bulldogs scored on a fluky goal at the 18:05 mark of the first half. A shot hit the post, and then a rebound shot hit another post before the ball bounced in and Barr couldn’t get there.
But the Beavers’ Mary O’Brien got a goal almost instantly to even the score at 1-1.
“We actually came back within two minutes of them scoring,” Barr said. “So it was a good comeback. We were able to tweak at halftime and we were able to hold a tie. And that was big for us and bad for them, because now they have to play Mankato in the first round.”
The Duluth native saw 28 shots, but only 12 of those were on target. And after the Bulldogs scored the initial goal, nothing got past her.
“A tie was a win for us, it didn’t mean anything for them,” Stone said. “They were pushing, and we bunkered in for last 30 minutes, so they took a lot of deep shots. But Sonja was really good. She made a lot of big plays for us, and she was very clean.”
The Beavers’ latest heroic comebacks came at just the right time. Before this weekend, BSU was in the midst of a four-game losing streak that saw them shut out twice at home against Upper Iowa and Winona State, then losing a pair of 2-1 decisions on the road in North Dakota.
Their playoff position was far from secure going into the final weekend of the season.
“I was proud of the girls, they showed some resiliency. We had some tough, tough losses,” Stone said. “We had two different leads in that four-game stretch; and one of them was an overtime loss.
“I thought the girls didn’t give up. They stuck to the plan, they worked on a few little things offensively and defensively and I thought that was the difference. I’m proud they were able to bounce back and play some must-win games.”
With the playoffs starting today – and a possible trip to the NCAA tournament on the line – every game becomes a must-win.
Upper Iowa, who beat BSU 1-0 in Bemidji, will pose a definite threat but aren’t invincible.
“It should be pretty even, you’d think,” Stone said. “But it’s a strange game. You anticipate as a coach that it’s going to be a one-goal game. It’s just a matter of if we can be squeaky-clean in the back and make a play or two up top. If we can do that, we’ll have a chance.”
He’d just rather not have to deal with the whole, “playing-from-behind” thing again.
“It has been our hallmark this season,” he said. “But hopefully once this postseason starts we can maybe reverse that trend. Get a lead, keep it, and not have to come back.”