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GIRLS SOCCER: Bemidji posts strong defensive effort, but loses on last-second score

“What I’m already liking so far this year is that we have a lot of heart,” BHS head coach Logan Larsen said. “That's not a concern."

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Bemidji sophomore Matjea Malterud (2) fights for control of the ball during the second half against Sartell-St. Stephen on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI – It’s not often in sports that a team will aspire to a tie.

But that was the scenario the Bemidji High School girls soccer team found itself in on Saturday at Chet Anderson Stadium. Tied 1-1 with a strong Sartell-St. Stephen team in the season opener, the Lumberjacks were frequently out-possessed and nearly conceded a second goal several times.

Yet they managed to hold on through 80 minutes of regulation and nine minutes of extra time. It was the 10th minute in the extra session, though, that caused BHS problems. Sabres midfielder Reese Klotzer slipped through the defense with eight seconds remaining and deposited a ball into the left corner of the Jacks’ net, giving Sartell-St. Stephen a 2-1 win in spite of Bemidji’s strong defensive performance.

“What I’m already liking so far this year is that we have a lot of heart,” BHS head coach Logan Larsen said. “That's not a concern. They're not going to hang heads, they're not going to get in their own heads. So there's positives despite some flaws in how we executed our game.”

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Bemidji senior Marah Bitter (20) celebrates after scoring in the first half against Sartell-St. Stephen on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

The most sterling moment occurred when Marah Bitter unleashed a 35-yard free kick in the 15th minute, barreling the ball over the outstretched arms of Sabres goalkeeper Anna Lundeen for the first goal of the contest. But the Lumberjacks were under siege for much of the game, and that led to consequences when Chloe Turner sent a ball through to the back of the net amidst traffic just four minutes later, tying the score 1-1.

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For the rest of the contest, BHS (0-1) was continually on its heels, struggling to even out possession time and frequently stuck in its own portion of the pitch. That’s something Larsen wants to see change moving forward.

“It was a lot of defense,” Larsen said. “Most of the game was on our half, so we just need to learn how to build up the field.”

Sartell-St. Stephen (1-0) significantly dominated the chances in the second half, knocking one ball off the post and forcing Jacks goalkeeper Kiera Nelson into the action on several occasions. But Bemidji still managed to keep it even through the end of regular time and into the extra periods.

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Bemidji senior Sage Zetah-Cornelius (22) controls the ball during the second half against Sartell-St. Stephen on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

The last-minute winner doesn’t undo all the work the Lumberjacks did to get to that point, but it does create a renewed sense of urgency as BHS heads back to the practice field.

“This is a lot of new players on varsity,” Larsen said. “So I think it's not going to be too hard on them. As long as they're willing to learn from the game – to watch the video, to be coachable – we'll make good strides from here.”

He hopes those strides include development of the Jacks’ technique as they strive to move the ball more efficiently up the field.

“We need to take our technical development seriously,” Larsen said. “So even when practice isn't fun, working on the basics, it has to be at game pace, because we saw we couldn't execute at game pace today. We need to transition quicker constantly all around the field. We win the ball, we need to show quickly off the ball. We play up the field, we have to support that ball when it's played up the field.”

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Bemidji senior Emma Wright (12) fights for the ball during the first half against Sartell-St. Stephen on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Nelson buttressed Bemidji’s backline in its solid effort with seven saves, outpacing Lundeen, who finished with one.

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The Lumberjacks return to the field at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 1, for a road matchup with Detroit Lakes.

Sartell-St. Stephen 2, Bemidji 1

SSS 1 0 0 1 – 2

BHS 1 0 0 0 – 1

First half – 1, BHS GOAL, Bitter (unassisted), 15’; 2, SSS GOAL, Turner (Klotzer), 19’.

Second half – No scoring.

Extra time first half – No scoring.

Extra time second half – 3, SSS GOAL, Klotzer (Turner), 90’.

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Saves – Nelson (BHS) 7, Lundeen (SSS) 1.

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Bemidji sophomore Miriam Bitter (19) goes for the ball during the second half against Sartell-St. Stephen on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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Bemidji junior Kate Halden (13) goes to kick the ball during the first half against Sartell-St. Stephen on Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

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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