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Pat Miller: This week at Bemidji High School - soccer team no stranger to section challenges

When the Bemidji boys soccer team lost 1-0 to Sartell on the middle school field on Sept. 29 the weather was lousy. Rain slicked the pitch and a strong wind affected the passing game.

The weather conditions will be similar, perhaps even worse, when the Lumberjacks and Sabres meet at 4 p.m. today in Sartell with a trip to the Section 8A championship on the line. And if the predicted deluge does arrive, BHS coach Rick Toward said that his players will be able to adjust.

“It is to supposed to rain almost two inches in Sartell between Monday and Tuesday and it will be raining during the game so the field conditions will be tough,” Toward said. “It’s a grass surface, the ground will be slippery and the ball will take some weird bounces.

“But those conditions may help us because a team as skilled as Sartell may not be able to use all of its weapons.”

Bemidji has had an up-and-down season but right now the Jacks are playing well. A pair of section tournament victories has given the Lumberjacks a 7-8-3 overall record heading into today’s semifinal test while Sartell has forged a 12-2-2 mark.

Sartell is the top seed in the South Division of the section while BHS was seeded No. 3 in the North. On their way to today’s contest the Jacks have beaten Crookston 5-1 and Detroit Lakes 2-1.

Sartell had a first-round bye and blitzed Little Falls 6-1 in the quarterfinals.

“Our 1-0 loss to Sartell earlier this season doesn’t tell the whole story. We are going into Tuesday’s game with the approach that this is a team we can play with,” Toward said. “Sartell is ranked in the state but we know we can play with them.

“The stars may have to align and we will have to play our best game but we’re prepared. The guys are looking forward to this opportunity.”

The guys include senior co-captains Matt Bitter and Gunnar Nelson. Both Jacks will be making their fourth straight appearance in the section semifinals and Toward will depend upon them to educate their younger teammates about what it takes to succeed at this level.

“This is the same matchup that we had in last year’s semifinals and we beat Sartell 2-0 in Bemidji,” Toward said. “Matt and Gunnar have been in this position the past three years and they won’t be surprised by anything that happens.

“Matt and Gunnar are our senior leaders and they have instilled the confidence that we will need to their teammates.”

Today’s winner will head to St. Cloud State 5:30 p.m. Thursday for the section championship. In today’s other semifinal, Hillcrest Lutheran Academy will host St. Cloud Apollo.

Seasons about to end

The regular seasons will end this week for the Lumberjacks football, volleyball and cross country teams.

The football team improved to 6-1 Friday when it outlasted hurricane conditions and Alexandria 35-34. On Wednesday the Lumberjacks will entertain Moorhead at 7 p.m. The Spuds are 4-3 and both teams are 3-1 in the Central Lakes Conference North Division.

Despite Friday’s victory BHS lost ground in the Section 7-5A QRF rankings. Bemidji enters the final game rated third in the six-team field with a QRF of 76.9. Brainerd leads the section and the state with a 132.3 QRF and Chisago Lakes is second in the section at 83.2.

The top two teams in the section playoffs will earn first-round byes and the Jacks will need some help if they are to overtake Chisago Lakes for that position.

In order to be seeded second BHS must defeat Moorhead and hope that Chisago Lakes loses at St. Francis. Even that scenario might not be enough to vault BHS past Chisago Lakes but at least the computer which determines the QRF would have something to consider.

The volleyball team stunned Monticello 25-19, 25-20 Saturday during its 3-2 run at the St. Michael-Albertville Invitational and that victory vaulted the Lumberjacks past Monticello in the Section 8-3A rankings.

Unfortunately, Moorhead also went 3-2 in the same tournament and the Spuds overtook both Bemidji and Monticello in the QRF rankings.

Alexandria enters the final week of the regular season with a QRF of 129.8 while Moorhead is 108.7 and Bemidji 107.2. Monticello owns a 103.5 QRF to complete the top four.

BHS ends its regular season this week with today’s game at Duluth East and Thursday’s contest at Thief River Falls.

The cross country teams host Crosby-Ironton, Moorhead and TrekNorth at 4 p.m. today at Greenwood Golf Course in their lone home appearance of the fall.

The Lumberjacks will join their section peers Oct. 24 at Detroit Lakes for the section meet.

The swimmers and divers had a terrific Saturday as they captured the Section 8A True Team meet at the high school pool.

Bemidji’s lone action this week is today’s meet at Fosston. The regular season will end Oct. 25 at Grand Rapids and on Nov. 8 and Nov. 9 the Jacks will host the Section 8A meet.

The seasons ended last week for the girls tennis and girls soccer teams. The girls tennis squad concluded its campaign with a 5-2 loss to Monticello in the section semifinals.

Earning letters for Bemidji this year were Claudia Bellew, Annika Johnson, Olivia Dickinson, Jenna Lee, Kenzie Schultz, Nicolette Roy, Kayla Snell, McKayla Beaulieu, Erin Edlund, Sarah McNallan, Mattie Osborne, Alexis Konecne and Abbie Kelm.

The girls soccer team ended its campaign Thursday with a 4-1 loss to Elk River in the quarterfinals of the Section 8-2A tournament. Bemidji and the Elks were knotted 1-1 until the final 15 minutes when the home team scored three unanswered goals.

Maea Wall scored for the Jacks and Abby Lindseth had the assist.

BHS ended its season with a 10-7 record.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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