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WOMEN’S SOCCER: Bemidji State’s dream run ends in national quarterfinals

The greatest NCAA Tournament run in Bemidji State women’s soccer history set with the sun on Sunday at Chet Anderson Stadium, as Ferris State earned a 2-0 win over the No. 24 Beavers in the national quarterfinals.

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Bemidji State's Maggie Cade, Alyssa Stumbaugh and Megan Majewski embrace after a 2-0 loss against Ferris State in the national quarterfinals on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI -- The terrible juxtaposition of a playoff run lasting longer than ever is that it still ends all too soon.

“The greater the season, the tighter the relationships, the harder it hurts,” Jim Stone said. “There’s certainly a sense of loss right now.”

The greatest NCAA Tournament run in Bemidji State women’s soccer history set with the sun on Sunday at Chet Anderson Stadium, as Ferris State earned a 2-0 win over the No. 24 Beavers in the national quarterfinals.

“When the crash comes, it’s a pretty hard crash,” said Stone, the program’s head coach since 2002. “But anytime you set a benchmark a little bit higher, now you have a new standard. We have a new goal now, and that’s to get to a Final Four somehow.”

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The Beavers wave to the fans after a 2-0 loss against Ferris State in the national quarterfinals on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

The Bulldogs furthered their claim as this season’s Cinderella. The No. 6 seed from the Midwest Region is dancing to Seattle for the national semifinals at the expense of a gut-wrenching, season-ending loss for BSU on home turf.

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The last three weeks will be remembered as the greatest stretch in Bemidji State history, as the club won the NSIC Tournament and Central Region championships for the first time ever. But Sunday’s Elite Eight loss cut deep in the moment.

“We accomplished so many amazing things this year,” forward Allyson Smith said. “We’re the first to do some really cool things, and we’ve set a standard for the future. But man, it hurts, especially knowing you’re good enough to go further.”

During a run of this magnitude, losing is a very real possibility that no one truly sees as an option until it strikes. When Ferris State scored twice within four minutes early in the second half, the Beavers (16-3-6) were blindsided with an unfamiliar sensation.

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The Beavers fight for the ball during the second half against Ferris State in the national quarterfinals on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“It feels a bit daunting, for sure,” Stone said. “At 1-0, you’re one goal away. … You get two down, and it’s a different mindset. I really felt like, if we got the first, the second would have come. I really did feel like that, and man, we came close a few times. We definitely could have tucked one or two in, but it wasn’t our night.”

Such was the problem for BSU, which trudged through an out-of-sorts kind of loss. Starting midfielder Maria Stocke missed the game with a concussion suffered in Friday’s Sweet 16 win over Emporia State, and Bemidji State tried to plug the vacancy in a variety of ways that didn’t stick.

The Bulldogs (12-5-7) were the aggressor from the opening kick, and they finally capitalized in the 53rd minute when Payton Price headed in a corner kick from Lindsay Cole.

Adding insult to injury, Nikki May weaved around a few weak challenges and rushed into the 18-yard box in the 57th minute, dipping a shot over goalkeeper Alyssa Stumbaugh to complete the 1-2 punch.

“That second goal didn’t need to happen,” Smith said. “There were a few mistakes, one by me. We let our guard down for two plays, and it cost us the game.”

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Bemidji State fifth-year Sara Wendt (14) leaps for the ball as it's caught by Ferris State goalkeeper Darya Mosallaei (00) during the first half in the national quarterfinals on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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Bemidji State fifth-year Allyson Smith (15) moves the ball during the first half against Ferris State in the national quarterfinals on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

There were chances on the other side, too, namely a few breakthroughs for Sara Wendt and a handful of open windows for Smith, but none of the build up paid off with that sorely-needed first goal. Desperation wedged itself into the attack, and Hail Mary-type passes all went unfulfilled.

“We fought to the end,” defender Megan Majewski said. “We had three or four decent chances in the second half. It felt like we were getting our chances, we just weren’t finishing them today.”

The reality of the end arrived with full time. Bemidji State retreated to a somber locker room and said goodbye with “a lot of hugs and a lot of ‘I love you’s,’” Smith said.

The coaches also opened up the floor to the veterans, where Erin Becker and Majewski reminded the group of the bigger picture.

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Bemidji State fifth-year Megan Majewski (24) kicks the ball toward the net during the first half against Ferris State in the national quarterfinals on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“I told the team that we wanted to be a team of firsts, and that’s exactly what we were,” Majewski said. “There were times in the season where we didn’t really think we’d make it this far. To turn our season around and get as far as we did is pretty impressive, and I’m really proud of us.”

Bemidji State graduates five fifth-years in Megan Dahl, Becker, Majewski, Smith and Wendt. Another six seniors are eligible to return for a fifth year in 2023, should they so choose: Emily Baurr, Maggie Cade, Georgie Harber, Lexi Larson, Halle Peterson and Stumbaugh.

“Looking back at the start of the season, we didn’t know if we were going to make the conference tournament. We were not playing our best soccer,” Smith said. “Then to look at where we ended, it’s kind of amazing. Credit to the coaches, credit to the girls. We put our hearts on the line day in and day out. It hurts that we’re done, but we did something really special here this year.”

Ferris State 2, Bemidji State 0

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FSU 0 2 -- 2

BSU 0 0 -- 0

First half -- No scoring.

Second half -- 1, FSU GOAL, Price (Cole), 53’; 2, FSU GOAL, May (unassisted), 57’.

Saves -- Stumbaugh (BSU) 5; Mosallaei (FSU) 4.

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Bemidji State fifth-year Erin Becker (11) controls the ball during the second half against Ferris State in the national quarterfinals on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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The Beavers defend the ball near the Bemidji State net during the first half against Ferris State in the national quarterfinals on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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The Beavers high-five during starting introductions before playing in the national quarterfinals against Ferris State on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Micah Friez is the sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he joined the Pioneer in 2015 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Lumberjack and Beaver updates.
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