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Bemidji girls soccer team makes first state appearance in school history

Bemidji High School soccer captains Kelsey Merck, left and Caitlin Blotske along with the rest of the team parade around the high school gym with their section championship trophy at Tuesday afternoon's pep fest. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

No matter what happens today when the Bemidji girls soccer team faces Blake in the opening round of the state tournament 5:30 p.m. at St. Cloud State the Lumberjacks will have plenty of stories to tell when they return for their school reunions.

"When we first started the section tournament we put the brackets on the wall and just focused on our first game," said BHS coach Kelly Schoonover. "When we were getting ready to play East Grand Forks in the section final we put up the brackets again and looked where we had gone. We had beaten Hillcest. We had beaten Alexandria and we had beaten Sartell.

"At the end of the bracket it said the winner between us and East Grand Forks would be the 'champion.' The girls went into that game wanting to be that champion and I'm not surprised that they accomplished what they set out to do."

As has been the case since the second round of the section playoffs, the Lumberjacks will be the underdog today. When the state tournament field is determined the coaches involved get together and rank the top four teams. The remaining four teams than are matched against the seeded squads by a luck of the draw.

Benilde-St. Margaret (16-0-3) was given the top seed and Blake (18-1) was rated second.

Rochester Lourdes (17-1-1) is the third seed and Totino-Grace (13-4-2) is ranked fourth.

Following Bemidji's game today Lourdes and Esko-Carlton (13-5-1) will square off. If the Jacks can pull off the upset they will battle either Lourdes or Esko-Carlton Oct 31 at noon at the Metrodome.

The other two state tournament quarterfinal games are scheduled for Friday at Roseville High School. Benilde-St. Margaret's will face South St. Paul (10-9) while Totino-Grace will battle St. Peter (12-5-3).

Blake is making its seventh state appearance and owns one state title. Ranked second in the final coaches' poll, the Bears are led by Meghan Bauer who has five goals and seven assists.

Blake has posted 13 shutouts and goalie Maddy Crawford has allowed only eight goals.

"We will have mixed emotions before (today's) game," Schoonover said. "I know the girls are super excited and will probably be a little nervous. But at the same time, the girls are confident. They have each other and when they stick together, as they have all year, anything is possible."

This year's girls team is the first in the history of the soccer program, either girls or boys, to reach the state tournament.

"If any team was going to make history I'm not surprised it was this team," Schoonover said. "This is a team of leaders. The girls play hard but they have fun. They are best friends and see each other every day outside of soccer.

"There is something special about this group of girls and that has made the team something special," Schoonover continued. "Just as we did during the section tournament, we're taking the state tournament one game at a time. Against Blake we're going to play the best that we can and see what happens."

Class A State Tournament

Today's Games

Game 1: Bemidji (14-6) vs. Blake (18-1), 5:30 p.m., St. Cloud State

Game 2: Rochester Lourdes (17-1-1) vs. Esko-Carlton (13-5-1), 7:30 p.m., St. Cloud State

Friday's Games

Game 3: Benilde-St. Margaret's (16-0-3) vs. South St. Paul (10-9), 5:30 p.m., Roseville High School

Game 4: Totino-Grace (13-4-2) vs. Saint Peter (12-5-3), 7:30 p.m., Roseville High School

October 31 Semifinals at Metrodome

Game 5: Game 1 winner vs. Game 2 winner, noon

Game 6: Game 3 winner vs. Game 4 winner, 2 p.m.

November 1

Third Place Game at Metrodome

Game 7: Game 5 loser vs. Game 6 loser, 8 a.m.

November 3

Championship at Metrodome

Game 8: Game 5 winner vs. Game 6 winner, 12:30 p.m.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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