SOCCER: Dominant first half keys Bemidji win over Brainerd
BEMIDJI — The maturation process for the Bemidji boys soccer team continued Saturday at the middle school field as the Lumberjacks bolted to a 4-0 halftime lead and hung on to defeat Brainerd 4-2.
Saturday’s victory evened Bemidji’s record at 4-4-2 and, considering that the Jacks began the season at 0-3, provided more evidence that the players and the team are continuing to improve.
“We’re getting better,” said BHS coach Rick Toward, “and we played very well in the first half when we were hitting on all cylinders and scored four goals.”
Leo Spry started the first-half outburst when he converted a feed from Alex Schussman 12:31 into the action.
The teammates reversed those roles two minutes later when Spry passed to Schussman who was streaking through the Warriors defense. Schussman corralled the feed and zipped a low rocket past Brainerd netminder Joseph Anderholm.
Schussman also had a hand in Bemidji’s third goal as he hit Louis Iaquinto with a pass 23 minutes into the game and Iaquinto beat Anderholm from 15 yards out.
Joel Johannsen capped the first-half flurry when he found the left side of the net from 20 yards out with 2:28 remaining in the half.
“Everything went right for us in that half,” Toward said. “Brainerd was a better team than the one that trailed 4-0 and I never did feel comfortable with that lead. I knew there was plenty of time left.”
At intermission Toward and his coaches altered their tactics, switching from an offensive theme to defending their net.
“You play differently when you are up 4-0 than when the score is 0-0,” Toward said. “We didn’t need to score any more goals to win so we concentrated on putting more bodies behind the ball and keeping Brainerd off the board in the second half.”
The tactical switch had mixed results. BHS did hang on for the victory but the visitors made things interesting by scoring at 45:19 and again at 60:28.
They also came very close on numerous other occasions but Lumberjacks goalie Matt Bitter stood tall down the stretch.
Bitter finished with 10 stops, seven of them in the second half when Brainerd owned a wide territorial edge.
“Our play in the first half was the best of the season and it shows the potential of this team,” Toward said. “In the second half we were tested but the kids never quit. I’m proud of how they reacted.”
Saturday’s contest was the first of five consecutive home games. On Tuesday Bemidji will resume its schedule against Moorhead. The game originally was slated for a 5 p.m. start at the middle school but it has been switched to 7 p.m. at Chet Anderson Stadium on the Bemidji State campus.
The Lumberjacks will also be home Thursday against Crookston and next Saturday against Sartell.
Brainerd 0 2 - 2
Bemidji 4 0 - 4
Bem-Spry (Schussman) 12:31
Bem-Schussman (Spry) 14:34
Bem-Iaquinto (Schussman) 23:00
Bem-Johannsen (unassisted) 37:32
Bra-Gilderman (Solheim) 45:19
Bra-Wurdeman (unassisted) 60:28
Anderholm (Bra) 3 3 - 6
Bitter (Bem) 3 7 - 10