BEMIDJI -- Just four games in, it’s already been a historic season for the Bemidji State women’s basketball team.
“Coach tells us every day: We’re super good,” said sophomore center Rachael Heittola, the reigning NSIC North Player of the Week. “Post, perimeter, we have everything. Now that we’re starting to get some wins out of it, I think everyone is starting to get that much more confidence and carrying it into every game.”
The Beavers have used their past three games to make quite a bit of noise across the conference, winning each time and breaking free from some long-standing program trends.
First came a win over Minnesota State on opening weekend, and then came two wins over Minnesota State Moorhead in their next series. BSU hadn’t beaten either team since at least 2012, and it also hadn’t swept the Dragons since 2004.
Fueling those wins have been Brooklyn Bachmann and Heittola, NSIC Player of the Week winners in each weekend that Bemidji State has taken the floor. Prior to this year, the program hadn’t had multiple winners in the same season since 2007-08.
“We had excuses piled up to why this was going to be a difficult year, just like everyone else in the league could have,” head coach Chelsea DeVille said. “It’s just fun. I love finding joy in basketball, and I love when you can see joy on our student-athletes’ faces. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”
The Beavers haven’t stumbled into their success. They’re shooting 50% from the field this season, which ranks fourth in the nation. They’ve shot at least 50% in three straight games, the same amount of instances they had from 2017-20 combined.
BSU also grabs 34.8 defensive rebounds per game, ranking fifth in the country. And then there’s the scoring, where Trinity Myer (15.5 points per game), Heittola (15.5) and Bachmann (15.3) all sit within the conference’s top 10. No other school has more than one player that high.
“It’s definitely affirmation for the women to realize they are who we said they are,” DeVille said. “At the same time, there’s a lot of things we can still get better on, which is great. They can see that on film. They also know that, in each of the four games, we’ve played well enough to win and have things we could control a little better.”
Only the top four teams in each division will make the NSIC Tournament this year, making each game all the more paramount. Bemidji State (3-1, 2-0 NSIC North) is tied with Minnesota Duluth atop the North Division standings.
The Beavers will keep their footing at the top this weekend if they can tame U-Mary. The Marauders (1-3, 1-1 NSIC North) will host BSU on Jan. 22-23 in the latter’s first road trip of the season.
And even more history is at stake for the Bemidji State bunch. A victory on Friday would give the Beavers their first three-game conference winning streak since 2007, while a sweep on Saturday would clinch their first four-game conference winning streak since 1992 -- which predates the NSIC.
The Beavers could also start the conference season 4-0 for the first time since opening the old Northern Sun Conference schedule 8-0 in 1987-88.
“You definitely feel it going into every game, knowing we’re the better team and we should win,” Heittola said. “Just having the confidence in every player on the team to do what they do.”
Not to get ahead of itself, BSU is also staying grounded. While the first two weekends have been a big step forward, Bemidji State recognizes that it has to stay focused on the day-to-day.
That starts with Friday’s 6 p.m. tipoff and Saturday’s 4 p.m. tipoff, both in Bismarck, N.D.
“We’re right here in the moment,” DeVille said. “(We’re) preparing for the next opponent, being ready to play them and just enjoying every sweet moment.”