WOMEN’S SOCCER: Beavers reach Sweet 16 with euphoric Maria Stocke strike
In overtime during the NCAA Tournament, and playing in the biggest game in Chet Anderson Stadium history, and with the score tied 2-2 against Minnesota State, and with a "Let's go Beavers!" chant echoing out -- and so, so much more -- Maria Stocke’s game-winning goal sent a euphoric shock through the Bemidji State women’s soccer team.
BEMIDJI -- For as mild-mannered as she often is, Maria Stocke let loose on Sunday night.
In overtime during the NCAA Tournament, and playing in the biggest game in Chet Anderson Stadium history, and with the score tied 2-2 against Minnesota State, and with a "Let's go Beavers!" chant echoing out -- and so, so much more -- Stocke’s game-winning goal sent a euphoric shock through the Bemidji State women’s soccer team.
“When I’ve scored before this season, I haven’t really celebrated,” Stocke said. “But that goal, I just had to celebrate. Everyone was super happy. People were kissing my forehead.”
Stocke’s left-footed goal, a strong finish off a Sara Wendt assist in the 102nd minute, was the decisive moment -- and perhaps the biggest in BSU history -- for the No. 24 Beavers in a 4-2 second-round playoff win over No. 12 Minnesota State.
“Everyone on the team, I’ve got a lot of love for them in my heart. To see them have that type of experience is amazing,” Bemidji State head coach Jim Stone said. “… It’s a game, right? We’re not talking about heaven, we’re not talking about Jesus Christ. But on this side of heaven, I mean, I’ll remember it the rest of my life.”
After Emily Baurr won a ball at midfield, she took her space upfield and found Wendt, who tapped the ball to Stocke with a first-touch pass as the latter made an overlapping run toward the top of the 18-yard box. Stocke had desperate defenders crashing down on her, but none could stop her from unleashing a rocket 13 yards from goal.
When her shot screamed past diving MSU keeper Mackenzie Rath to the bottom right corner, Stocke’s arms shot up, she jumped for joy and all 11 players converged for a monumental group hug. Eight minutes later, Wendt added an insurance goal for good measure, launching the program into the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row.
“I was super happy that I could finish in that moment,” Stocke said. “It’s super exciting to do it for everyone, not just myself. Our whole team, I’m glad we could do it together.”
Fittingly, it was an iconic finish for a thrilling game that warranted as much. Despite four goals in the first 90 minutes, the two rivals were tied for all but seven minutes of regulation.
The stakes, the atmosphere, the play -- it’s everything you want in a postseason game.
“The intensity was definitely on a different level,” said goalkeeper Alyssa Stumbaugh, who had a career-high 13 saves. “We’ve got to play the best game that we can play because if we don’t, we go home. We have a lot of veterans on the team who we don’t want to stop playing with, and they don’t want to stop playing.”
Danger loomed early as the Mavericks (14-2-6) bullied BSU (16-2-5) for most of the first half. The raid culminated in a goal for Maille Mathis off the crossbar in the 26th minute.
But Allyson Smith answered for the Beavers in the 32nd minute, turning on a ball at the top of the box and striking an incredible goal that leveled the score. And Halle Peterson gave Bemidji State the lead just out of halftime, heading in a Maggie Cade corner kick in the 49th minute.
That go-ahead moment was short-lived, however, because three-time NSIC Offensive Player of the Year Jenny Vetter raced to the other end of the field for a demoralizing equalizer 61 seconds later.
“There’s a little bit of a yo-yo effect where you’re up, you’re down,” Stone said. “When we went up 2-1, I was feeling really good. Then you get crushed a little bit (after Vetter’s goal). You try to get your focus off of that and onto what’s next. … Our players did a great job of keeping their emotions in check.”
Minnesota State’s press, which was unrelenting in the first half, declined as the game wore on. BSU played with the upper hand down the stretch, but the game still required extra time to settle the score.
Yet when Stocke delivered her momentous goal, the Beavers had their first win over the Mavericks since 2018. And what a time for it.
“Not a lot of teams (reach the Sweet 16),” Stocke said. “I know last year we did it, but this year we’re planning on going even further than we did last year. And I think we can do it.”
With top-seeded Central Missouri losing on Sunday, Bemidji State will host the third and fourth rounds of the NCAA Tournament. BSU will be right back to the Chet to play fourth-seeded Emporia State at 3 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 18, for a trip to the Elite Eight.
The Central Region and Midwest Region alternate hosting honors each season. So although the Midwest has top-seeded and fifth-ranked Grand Valley State, the two-time defending national champion, the road to the Final Four goes through Bemidji this year.
Bemidji State 4, Minnesota State 2
MSU 1 1 0 0 -- 2
BSU 1 1 0 2 -- 4
First half -- 1, MSU GOAL, Mathis (unassisted), 26’; 2, BSU GOAL, Smith (unassisted), 32’.
Second half -- 3, BSU GOAL, Peterson (Cade) 49’; 4, MSU GOAL, Vetter (Desens), 50’.
First overtime -- No scoring.
Second overtime -- 5, BSU GOAL, Stocke (Wendt, Baurr), 102’; 6, BSU GOAL, Wendt (Stocke), 109’.
Saves -- Stumbaugh (BSU) 13; Rath (MSU) 1.