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Koetter and Smith lead the way for Bemidji boys soccer team

On way to a 7-3-1 record the Bemidji boys soccer team has allowed only 12 goals and a pair of senior defenders are, in large part, responsible.

"Tanner Koetter and Tony Smith are the heart and soul of our defense," said BHS coach Rick Toward. "They play an unheralded position but how many times do you hear that the best offense is a great defense?

"That is true in our case. Tanner and Tony are the leaders of our team."

Smith, a senior center defenseman, has been playing soccer since the sixth grade and is in his third year with the varsity.

Koetter also is in his third year of varsity action and the senior sweeper has been active in the game since second grade.

Both will be on the pitch today when Bemidji hosts Hibbing at 5 p.m.

Because they primarily play defense, you will rarely see their names on the game statistic sheet. But their contributions are as obvious as anyone who scores a hat trick in the eyes of their coach.

"Both Tanner and Tony have glory on the field that you won't find on the scoreboard," Toward said.

"Stopping somebody who is in a position to score is our glory," Koetter said.

"It doesn't bother me that we may not receive notoriety, as long as we win," Smith added.

Koetter and Smith anchor a defense which has matured with the season and the key has been pressuring the opponent's offense.

"My job is to stop the attack at the center line and shut down the opponents before they get too far in," Smith said. "We try to take away as many options as we can by getting between the dribbler and where he wants to go with the ball."

Pestering the opponent's attack is vital if a team is to have a successful defense, according to Toward.

"The first objective of a strong defense is to delay the opponent until you can get the defensive numbers behind you," the coach said. "You want to create a situation where if you get beat individually you will have somebody behind you.

"Tony and Tanner create those situations for us and everyone else provides support.

"We look at our team as a collective unit," Toward continued. "Everybody understands their roles and even our bench players recognize the team aspect."

The Lumberjacks lost 2-1 at Hillcrest Lutheran Academy Tuesday and saw their eight-game unbeaten streak come to an end. Bemidji was 7-0-1 during that stretch.

"During that winning streak we learned how to play together," Smith said. "We figured out our passing and our teamwork. Now our goal is to start another unbeaten streak."

Today's home schedule also sees the tennis team entertaining Thief River Falls at 3:30 p.m. and the volleyball team hosting Roseau at 7:15.

The girls soccer team heads to East Grand Forks at 5 p.m.

Mark Fodness' tennis squad is coming off Tuesday's triangular sweep of Detroit Lakes and Crookston. Bemidji blanked the Lakers 7-0 and coasted past Crookston 6-1.

Tuesday's action was in Bemidji and the home schedule concludes today.

Following today's dual BHS will be off until Oct. 2 when it heads to the Detroit Lakes Invitational.

The volleyball team will try to snap a two-match slide tonight. Bemidji lost at Grand Rapids Monday to fall to 5-7.

The girls soccer team dropped a 1-0 home decision to Moorhead Tuesday and is 5-6 on the season. Earlier this fall the Lumberjacks lost 3-1 at home to East Grand Forks.

Pat Miller

Pat Miller is the sports editor at the Pioneer.

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