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Banner athletic seasons at BSU; All-Americans highlight Beavers’ year

Bemidji State coaches and team members celebrate their Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference championship after defeating Wayne State in the regular-season finale at the BSU Gymnasium. BSU Photo Services1 / 3
Beaver goalie Zuzana Tomcikova was Bemidji State’s Female Athlete of the Year for the 2011-12 seasons. The senior was the women’s hockey program’s first-ever All-America selection. Bemidji Pioneer File Photo2 / 3
Brady Wacker assisted his goalie Dan Bakala during action against Minnesota State last season. A late four-game losing streak in February, which included were swept by Minnesota and Wisconsin, knocked BSU out of contention for home ice in the WCHA playoffs. Instead, Bemidji State had to travel to UND where the Beavers lost 4-1 and 4-3. Bemidji Pioneer File Photo3 / 3

BEMIDJI – For many, the defining memory of 2012 will be watching the Bemidji State men’s basketball team celebrating its conference title against Winona State.

Or maybe 2012 was all about watching Zuzana Tomcikova make save after save in her final season in a Bemidji State hockey uniform, leading the Beavers to a record-breaking season.

Others might remember the Beaver football team coming back from the dead to win an NSIC Northern Division title.

BSU’s overall success came despite an apparent lack of funding that prompted university officials to hire a consulting group to analyze the status of the programs and their financial situations.

The consultants compiled a 74-page report that stated, among other things,  that department management, supervision and support of athletics staff needs improvement.

As a result of the study, Bemidji State athletic director Rick Goeb will be replaced at the end of the school year.

Whatever memories of 2012 one holds dear, the Beavers had some great seasons on and off the field.

Maybe the most notable performance came from James Ellisor and the BSU men’s basketball team.

The Beavers electrified the Bemidji State community in 2011-12, ending the season with the conference title and a berth in the NCAA II tournament, the latter for just the second time in the program’s history.

BSU finished 22-9, a record-breaking win total for the program. It was Bemidji State’s first Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference title since 2003-04 and the ninth in program history.

The Beavers ended up falling to conference rival St. Cloud State 77-72 in the first round of the tournament but the team still put the BSU program on the map.

Ellisor, a forward from Glendale, Ariz., led the NSIC in scoring with 21.9 points per game and was third nationally.

His scoring numbers garnered him loads of accolades, most notably Daktronics Division II Men’s Basketball Ron Lenz National Player of the Year, NSIC Player of the Year and BSU’s 2011-12 Male Athlete of the Year.

Ellisor wasn’t BSU’s only All-American in 2012.

Zuzana Tomcikova – Bemidji State’s 2011-12 Female Athlete of the Year – finished her career with a flourish, becoming one of BSU’s most decorated athletes.

The senior was the program’s first-ever All-America selection, as well as BSU’s first All-WCHA first team selection.

She led all conference goaltenders in saves (853) and had a 2.23 GAA, a .923 save percentage, four shutouts and a career-high win total, going 13-17-3.

In all she finished as the program’s all-time leader in games played (118), minutes played (6,945:05), saves (3,518), save percentage (.929), goals against average (2.32), wins (41) and shutouts (18). She’s also second all-time in saves in WCHA history.

All of that added up to a record-breaking season for the Beavers.

BSU finished 2011-12 with a 17-17-3 record – the most wins in program history. It was sixth in the WCHA with an 11-14-2 record

The men’s hockey team wasn’t as successful in 2011-12 as it was in 2010-11.

In 2010-11, their first year in the WCHA, the Beavers defied the odds and made it all the way to the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul where they ended up losing to Denver in the semifinals.

In 2011-12 they didn’t get that lucky.

A late four-game losing streak in February, in which the Beavers fell to Minnesota and Wisconsin, knocked them out of contention for home ice advantage in the WCHA playoffs.

Instead, the Beavers had to play North Dakota in Grand Forks, where they were swept 4-1 and 4-3 in two games.

BSU ended the season 17-18-3 overall and 11-14-3 in NSIC play.

Seniors Brad Hunt and Shea Walters finished their BSU careers on a high note.

Walters had 26 points in his final season, scoring 12 goals and notching 14 assists. Hunt, a defenseman, scored only five times but assisted on 21 goals to also have 26 points.

Dan Bakala also ended his four-year BSU career. The goaltender finished with an 11-13-2 overall record, a 9.11 save percentage and a 2.37 GAA.

The BSU women’s basketball team struggled through some injuries in 2011-12, finishing 9-18 overall and 7-15 in the NSIC. It failed to make postseason play.

Morgan Lee was the team’s lone all-conference representative as a sophomore, making the All-NSIC second team and averaging a team-high 13.1 points per game in 2011-12.

In the spring, the BSU men’s golf team qualified for the NCAA regional tournament for the first time since 2009.

BSU finished third in the NSIC tournament, but came up short in its bid to go to the national tournament.

The Beavers finished 13th out of 20 teams at regionals, shooting 46-over-par (299-298-313) during the three-day tournament.

BSU was, however, the top NSIC team at regionals, as St. Cloud State took 15th.

And BSU’s Danny Menton was two spots out of qualifying for the national tournament as an individual golfer, finishing the event with a score of 218, placing fourth among individuals who were not on teams that qualified for the national tournament.

The BSU women didn’t qualify for the NCAA tournament but finished 10th at the NSIC spring championship, carding a team score of 343.

The BSU baseball team finished the year 23-27, tying for the third-most wins in a season in the program’s 61-year history. The Beavers were 16-20 in the NSIC and finished tied for eighth in the league standings, just missing the cut for the conference tournament.

The Beavers’ softball team finished 10-37 overall and 3-23 in the NSIC, tied for last place in the conference.

On the track, BSU finished 11th in the NSIC outdoor championships in Bismarck, N.D., led by a record-breaking performance in the 400-meter relay. Tia Lindberg, Michelle Ohman, Ashley Larva and Taylor Sautbine set the school record in the event with a time of 48.75 seconds.

Sautbine also broke the school record in the 100-meter dash with a time of 15.9. The original record had stood for 33 years.

The BSU tennis team finished 3-14 overall in dual meets and 3-7 in conference play but announced that Bemidji High School coach Mark Fodness would be taking over as coach next season.

School ended in May for BSU, but the athletic department was still busy this summer.

BSU head basketball coach Matt Bowen announced early in May that he was taking the vacant head coaching job at league rival Minnesota-Duluth.

That led to a national coaching search over the summer, which ended with the hiring of Mike Boschee, formerly the coach at Central College in Pella, Iowa.

In the fall, football season started again, and the Beavers had high hopes coming off an 8-3 (7-3 NSIC) campaign in 2011.

Those high hopes were dashed early as the Beavers started the season 1-3. It looked like a winning record – much less a division title – was out of the question.

However, the Beavers won six of their next seven games and upset St. Cloud State, securing a 7-4 overall and league record. They took home an NSIC Northern Division title, which they shared with Minnesota-Duluth. It’s BSU’s first division title in five years of divisional play in the conference.

Tight end Brian Leonhardt battled injury all season and ended up starting in 10 games. The preseason All-American selection was also a postseason All-American selection by Beyond Sports College Network.

Leonhardt, a senior, had 25 receptions for 343 yards and three touchdowns to end his BSU career.

BSU quarterback Lance Rongstad finished his college career with a career-high 2,114 yards, and on the ground he led the Beavers for the second straight year, gaining 567 yards and scoring seven touchdowns on 124 carries. He was an All-NSIC honorable mention pick.

BSU football wasn’t the only program which defied the odds this fall.

The Beavers soccer team had just one senior to go along with 12 freshmen and eight sophomores but still finished 10-7-2 overall and 8-5-2 in NSIC play. It qualified for the NSIC tournament for the fourth-straight year before losing to Upper Iowa 1-0 in the quarterfinal round.

Sohomore forward Mary O’Brien was named to the All-NSIC second team, while junior midfielder Tiffany VanHaaften, junior defender Samantha Lumberg and freshman midfielder Megan Castro were named third team All-NSIC.

O’Brien led the Beavers in scoring this season with 24 points, including a career-high goals scored with 10. She finished tied for second among conference players in goals and tied for third in points.

VanHaaften led the team in assists with six and scored three goals just one year removed from an ACL surgery that caused her to miss the entire 2011 season.

The BSU volleyball team wasn’t as successful in 2012, but Bethany Thompson made up for it with a stellar senior year.

The Beavers finished 4-23 overall and 2-18 in conference play and didn’t qualify for the conference tournament.

But Thompson was outstanding, doing everything for the Beavers. She became just the ninth player in program history to record 1,000 kills and finished her senior year with 354 kills. She was named to the All-NSIC second team in her final season.

The BSU cross country team finished tied for 11th in the NSIC meet in October before going to the NCAA regional meet in Joplin, Mo., in November. The Beavers finished 23rd as a team and were led by Tina Larson’s career-best 6,000-meter time of 24.45.6.

As 2012 winds down, both BSU basketball teams are proving they were better than everyone thought they would be.

Despite the losses of Ellisor and head coach Matt Bowen, new head coach Mike Boschee has his team at 6-3 overall and 4-1 in conference play at the holiday break.

Senior guard Dermaine Crockrell is averaging a team high 15.7 points per game while senior forward Mason Walters is at 12.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per game.

The women’s team has also been a surprise thus far.

Mike Curfman’s Beavers started the season 5-0 – the best start since beginning the 1974-75 season at 13-0.

At the holiday break BSU is 6-3 overall and 2-3 in NSIC play.

Transfer guard LaNae Rash leads the Beavers in scoring with 14.6 points per game, while Morgan Lee is second with 13.0.

Kate Warmack is also in double figures, averaging 10.1 points and a team-high 7.8 rebounds per game.

The BSU women’s hockey team is struggling at the end of 2012.

Losing Tomcikova to graduation has made things tough for the Beavers as they are only 3-13-2 at the break and have allowed 69 goals while scoring just 29. They have yet to win a game at the Sanford Center this season.

Sadie Lundquist and Mackenzie Thurston are the team leaders in points, each with 10, while Natasha Kostenko is the team’s top goal scorer with five.

The men’s hockey team is in much better shape at the break.

The Beavers are 5-8-3 (4-7-3 WCHA) but are coming off a three-point weekend against then No. 10-ranked Denver.

BSU head coach Tom Serratore also earned a milestone victory, securing his 200th career win when the Beavers defeated Denver 5-1 Dec. 15.

Brance Orban leads the team at the break with 12 points (four goals, eight assists) while Jordan George leads the team in goals (five) and has six assists for 11 points. Danny Mattson also has 11 points (two goals, nine assists).

Sophomore Andrew Walsh has been solid in goal this season, starting in 10 of the team’s 16 games and sporting a 4-4-2 record, 2.17 GAA and 9.29 save percentage.

Jack Hittinger

Jack Hittinger is the sports editor of the Bemidji Pioneer. He is also the Bemidji State beat writer. He hails from the Great State of Michigan. Read his Bemidji State blog at and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.

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