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GIRLS SOCCER: Bemidji dams up Grand Rapids with 2-0 senior night win

BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji High School girls soccer team went out and took care of business on Senior Night on Tuesday against Grand Rapids, sending its seniors off with a 2-0 win at Chet Anderson Stadium. But it took them a half to really get going.

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Bemidji senior Josie Aitken (10) passes the ball in the first half against Grand Rapids on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji High School girls soccer team went out and took care of business on Senior Night on Tuesday against Grand Rapids, sending its seniors off with a 2-0 win at Chet Anderson Stadium. But it took them a half to really get going.

A scoreless first half, possibly influenced some by the pregame festivities, kept the Lumberjacks from taking control early. But a simple halftime reminder from their coach got them back on track.

“The halftime talk was that they needed to not just have the energy, but to harness it,” head coach Logan Larsen said. “So when we have the ball, we have a purpose that's beyond just pushing it up the field. So less direct play, less predictability. More possession. Get the other team chasing.”

They did that nearly right away in the second half, with senior midfielder Addy Kelly netting a header off a corner kick from Marah Bitter in the 47th minute to give the Jacks a 1-0 lead. They quickly followed up with a second in the 53rd minute when Emma Wright stole the ball and whipped in an unassisted shot to finish the scoring.

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Bemidji junior Emma Wright (16) chases the ball in the first half against Grand Rapids on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Goalkeeper Kiera Nelson stopped both shots she faced to record a clean sheet.

“I think this is probably the best showing of heart and just full effort that we've had going from the first to the second half,” Larsen said. “Once we began to actually have a purpose, that also looked better in our game.”

When reflecting on his seniors’ contributions to the program, Larsen noted that this year’s class has more of a collective nature than past classes. They don’t crave individual success -- rather, they prefer to focus on the team.

“This is probably the most understated crowd of all of them,” he said. “None of them are really hungry for the spotlight. So I think it's just when they have a night like tonight where they all contribute and all play a big role, that speaks for who they are as a team.

“Because it's not really a team where there's one or two stars that are supported by everybody else, but everybody really, they all want to finish this as a team, as a family, which they've stated many times.”

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Bemidji senior Olivia Blomberg (19) boots the ball down the field in the first half against Grand Rapids on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021, at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

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BHS (5-6-2) will now try to harness that family connection as the section playoffs approach. Not only was this Bemidji’s Senior Night, it was the team’s final home game, and only two regular-season games remain on the schedule. With only road matchups at Detroit Lakes and Duluth Marshall left before the playoffs start, the Jacks must focus on what they can improve upon by the end of the season.

“We still have to just possess the ball better,” Larsen said. “I think there's still plenty of times where we give the ball away with bad passes. Tonight it was better. I think this game helped a lot, because Grand Rapids was a team that was ready to battle, and they put on a lot of pressure, and that forced us to hit better passes while that pressure existed. So it was a great game in terms of preparation for sections.”

The Lumberjacks have plenty of talent. Homing in on what they need to fix will help them reach their full potential.

“They're so talented, I thought we would be at this height a little bit sooner,” Larsen said. “But I'm glad to see we are getting there. Sixteen varsity returners, we knew we'd be strong. Maybe we came back into the season too arrogant and knowing how strong we'd be, and that could be part of the issue with just recognizing that battles in games are often won with heart, not just decent passing, everything like that, speed, athleticism. So I thought we'd be at this point sooner, but we're here now, and that's a good point to lead us into sections.”

BHS next faces Detroit Lakes for a road tilt at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 7.

Bemidji 2, Grand Rapids 0

GR 0 0 -- 0

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BHS 0 2 -- 2

First half -- No scoring.

Second half -- 1, BHS GOAL, Kelly (Bitter), 47’; 2, BHS GOAL, Wright (unassisted) 53’.

Saves -- Nelson (BHS) 2, Cole (GR) 4.

Christian Babcock is a sports reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer. He trekked to Bemidji from his hometown of Campbell, Calif., after graduating from the Cronkite School at Arizona State University in 2021. Follow him on Twitter at @CB_Journalist for updates on the Lumberjacks and Beavers or to suggest your favorite local restaurant.
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