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Bemidji girls soccer team to face East Grand Forks for section championship

Sports programs which have turned the corner often can look back to a game or an event as the springboard to the transformation.

East Grand Forks has always been the thorn in the side of the Bemidji girls soccer team. The Green Wave has won the past five Lakes to Prairie Conference championships and has represented Section 8A at the state tournament in 2009 and 2010.

Among the teams it continually defeated along the way was Bemidji and on Sept. 6 the trend continued as EGF belted BHS 9-2. A few weeks later, however, the Lumberjacks turned the tables on as they handed the Green Wave a 2-1 setback in Bemidji.

"Before that game we had never beaten East Grand during our four years with the varsity," said Lumberjacks co-captain Caitlin Blotske. "But that streak is over."

Blotske, fellow co-captain Kelsey Merck and their teammates will have the opportunity to officially turn the corner 7:30 p.m. today when they tangle with East Grand Forks (17-2) in the Section 8A championship game at St. Cloud State.

The reward will be a trip to the state tournament and Merck believes that this is the year the Jacks will be the section's representative.

"When we beat East Grand earlier this year it felt like a section championship game," she said. "We knew we would meet them again in the playoffs and that game showed that we could beat them.

"I think the pressure (in Thursday's game) will be on East Grand Forks because they know we can win," Blotske added.

Emily Boyer and Josie Spry scored Bemidji's goals in the earlier victory and Casey Palmer made some key saves down the stretch to preserve the win.

"I think we were meant to be in the section championship and are meant to win it," Merck said. "Even when we trailed Sartell 3-1 with 10 minutes to play Tuesday (in the section semifinals) we were sure that we were going to win. We weren't sure how we would do it but we knew we would because we had worked too hard this year to have the season end so close to our goal."

How the Lumberjacks did it was to score two goals in the final 12 minutes of regulation to force overtime and then see Spry convert Erin Booth's feed 3:30 into the extra session to upset the top seed from the South Sub-Section.

"We connect so well as a team that we couldn't accept losing in the section semifinals," Merck said.

That team chemistry has led the Jacks to a 13-6 record and to the verge of a state trip.

"Our unity is what makes us strong," Blotske said. "We're so close as friends and as a team and that makes us play better on the field. When we came back against Sartell it was because we stayed together as friends and as a team."

When the Lumberjacks hit the field tonight they will be representing more than the 2011 players and coaches.

"Since we've been in the U-12 program we been beaten by East Grand Forks," Merck said. "This game isn't just for us. We're playing for all of our alumni and all of the Bemidji soccer teams of the past."

"And we're going to give everything we have," Blotske added.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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