WOMEN'S SOCCER: Bemidji State peaking at right time for first round of NSIC Tourney
BEMIDJI — Jim Stone thinks his Bemidji State women’s soccer team is playing at its peak right now.
That’s perfect timing for the Beavers.
BSU travels to Duluth today for a first-round Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament game against Minnesota-Duluth. The sixth-seeded Beavers take on the third-seeded Bulldogs at 5 p.m. today.
“Generally speaking, I think we’ve been playing our best soccer as of late, so we’re hoping to carry that into (tonight’s) game,” Stone said Tuesday before the team departed for Duluth.
Despite dropping their season finale at St. Cloud State Sunday afternoon, the Beavers (12-6-0, 9-6-0 NSIC) had won three straight — including a 1-0 thriller against the same Minnesota-Duluth team they’re going to face today.
Stone thinks Friday’s result will make his team more confident today.
“The biggest thing is the confidence,” the head coach said. “In the second half they probably outplayed us but we hung on. It’s a game of cat-and-mouse.
“You’ll see both teams making some adjustments, but for the most part we have a fresh take of them so we’ll know each other inside and out. It should make for an interesting game from that standpoint.”
The Beavers beat the Bulldogs Friday at Chet Anderson Stadium thanks to an early goal from senior Tiffany VanHaaften.
Despite getting outshot 28-8 in the game — only nine of UMD’s shots were on goal but that’s still a huge number — the Beavers hung on.
UMD finished 13-4 overall and 12-3 in the NSIC. In their three conference losses, the Bulldogs were shut out.
Goalkeeper Sonja Barr made all nine saves to secure the shutout and the win.
“She’s improved a lot from the beginning of the season,” Stone said of BSU’s junior keeper. “She made some strides this year and has been a lot more consistent.”
Barr is 9-4-0 overall with an .887 save percentage and six shutouts.
Stone said Sunday’s loss against St. Cloud State should be a wake-up call.
The Huskies scored 30 seconds into the game and BSU couldn’t recover.
“We just didn’t show up,” Stone said. “They had a goal early... I think in the first half they had like three shots and two goals. We gave up a goal early and just couldn’t dig ourselves out of it.”
However, with eight freshman and eight sophomores on the roster this year, Stone is encouraged by the last month or so of the season.
“I feel like more than anything the last 3-4 weeks we’ve figured out how to be a team on and off the field,” he said. “We’ve gotten closer together. The girls have a better understanding of each other.
“Maybe people also know each other a little better. It’s been happening onfield too; we’ve been seeing those results with everyone working together.”
Freshman Sarah Stram leads the team with 19 points and seven goals while junior Mary O’Brien also has seven goals and 17 points.
The Beavers will need key goals by players like their scoring leaders if they want to make it to the NCAA Central Region tournament.
“We have the quality to win a few here,” Stone said. “We just need big players make big plays. I don’t have a crystal ball to look into or anything but we think we have the quality to get pretty far.”
Game 1: Augustana (No. 7) at Winona (No. 2)
Game 2: BSU (No. 6) at UMD (No. 3)
Game 3: Minot (No. 8) at Minnesota St. (No. 1)
Game 4: SMSU (No. 5) at Upper Iowa (No. 4)
(at highest-seeded of semifinalist)
Game 5: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, 11 a.m.
Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 2 p.m.
(at highest-seeded of semifinalist)
Game 7: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 1 p.m.