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Defending state champions too much for Bemidji

PAT MILLER | BEMIDJI PIONEER Bemidji's Paige Moen battles Wayzata's Alexandrine Cranfield during Saturday's home girls soccer opener. Bemidji played well but dropped a 3-0 decision to the defending state Class 2A champion.

BEMIDJI -- During the off season officials of the Minnesota State High School League analyzed the student populations of the various schools which offer girls soccer. What they found is, according to enrollment, Bemidji is just barely among the top 64 programs in the state. That discovery resulted in the Lumberjacks being elevated from the Class A postseason tournament into the Class 2A ranks this year.

To no one's surprise, Class 2A is dominated by the Twin Cities schools and rising to the top last year was Wayzata which won the state championship and finished the fall 18-2-2.

Bemidji girls coach Kelly Schoonover didn't know much about Wayzata as she was more concerned with the Class A teams standing between the Jacks and a trip to state.

Saturday at the middle school pitch, however, Schoonover and her players discovered what it takes to succeed in Class 2Al as Wayzata blanked the Jacks 3-0.

Both teams were playing the second half of back-to-back games as Bemidji thumped Little Falls 3-0 Friday while the Trojans battered Grand Rapids 10-0. Despite a seemingly close score, Wayzata dominated Bemidji and the Lumberjacks did well to limit the visitors to only three goals.

"Wayzata is a phenomenal team," Schoonover said. "I think it was great accomplishment for us to hold them scoreless after the first half and to stay within 3-0.

"The girls came off the field with a positive attitude, and they should have," the coach continued. "We were happy with how we worked together against such a challenging opponent."

Wayzata dictated play from the outset and Bemidji struggled to manufacture any offensive momentum. Defensively the Lumberjacks were able to force the Trojans to the perimeter on most occasions but in the second half the visitors did connect on three inside opportunities.

The only score Wayzata would need came six minutes into the second half when Kasey Snyder took a feed along the right side, dribbled to 15 yards and rifled a shot over BHS keeper Casey Palmer and inside the right post.

About seven minutes later Ruby Stauber upped the cushion to 2-0 when she camped in the slot about 10 yards out and headed home a pass from Allison Dugan.

The visitors capped their victory with four minutes to play when Bailee Hyde took a crossing pass from Dugan and zipped a low bullet inside the left pipe.

Those three goals were the only times Wayzata could dent Bemidji's defense, however, as Palmer, who finished with 16 saves, and her teammates constantly kept the attackers to the outside and forced shots that were, for the most part, easy to stop.

"Our defense did a great job of clearing and keeping the ball to the outside," Schoonover said. "We made very good decisions on the field.

"But offensively we never were able to get a ball past Wayzata's defenders," the coach continued. "We have some scorers who rely on outracing the defense to balls that are behind them but on Saturday they never had that opportunity."

On Thursday the Lumberjacks (1-1) will try to transfer the lessons learned against Wayzata into a successful outing at Detroit Lakes.

"Saturday's game is a good motivator for our kids," Schoonover said. "The Wayzata kids probably play soccer 365 days a year and it was a good experience for us to see how they play the game. Now we know how the top Class 2A programs play soccer and we want play like they do."

Wayzata 0 3 - 3

Bemidji 0 0 - 0

First Half

No scoring

Second Half

W-Snyder (unassisted), 45:49

W-Stauber (Sullivan, Dugan), 54:56

W-Hyde (Dugan), 75: 54


Geppert (W) 0 0 - 0

Palmer (B) 10 6 - 16

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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