SAUK RAPIDS -- In a rematch of last season’s Section 8A championship, the Bemidji High School girls soccer team could breathe a little easier a lot sooner Saturday afternoon.
The Lumberjacks scored three goals in a span of five minutes to open the match, and cruised to a 5-0 win at Sauk Rapids-Rice. That’s a world apart from last fall’s 1-0 nail-biter of a win in the section final.
In goal, Jody Pemberton and Kiera Nelson combined on the team’s first clean sheet of the season that was spurred by the play of the team’s back line.
“I was really happy with the changes we made back at defense based on what we learned on Thursday,” said head coach Logan Larsen, referring to a 3-3 draw where Willmar scored three unanswered goals in the final 11 minutes. “I was very happy that our defenders earned their first shutout. The center-mids did a great job of getting more involved with the attack. Our forwards did a great job setting up other players to get goals and also working the wings.
“I think the only thing we still have to improve is making sure we play at our full pace throughout the whole game, regardless of when we lead.”
Forward Peyton Oelrich notched three assists, while midfielders Liberty Dickerson and Sophia Morin bagged two goals apiece on a productive day for the attack.
“I think they’re playing up to their ability,” Larsen said. “It’s closer to what they can do when they’re executing together and working off of each other.”
Morin’s header off a cross by Oelrich began the scoring outburst in the eighth minute.
One minute later, Dickerson fired a rebound past goalkeeper Maggie Fernholz to double the lead. Miah Stone recorded her first varsity point with her assist.
Dickerson struck again for her second goal in four minutes as she tucked a strike inside the bottom corner off an assist from Oelrich for a 3-0 lead just 13 minutes in. The senior nearly completed a hat trick minutes later when she sent a shot over the crossbar.
Emma Wright extended the margin to four goals before halftime with a low shot from the edge of the 18-yard box in the 31st minute. Marah Bitter was credited with her first varsity assist.
Morin tacked on her second goal of the day, with Oelrich lending a hand for her third helper.
Pemberton made one save in the first half before making way for Nelson and her three saves in the second half. Fernholz posted 14 saves for the home side.
The win improves Bemidji to 3-0-1, while the Storm sink to 0-5.
Next up for the Lumberjacks is a crucial road test against unbeaten Moorhead at 5 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 14. The Spuds have outscored opponents 53-0 over five games.
“Based on what I’ve seen, it’ll be the toughest game of our season so far,” Larsen said. “I’m interested in seeing what they are as a team. I don’t know if they’ve been tested as much as we’ll test them for sure.”
Bemidji 5, Sauk Rapids-Rice 0
BHS 4 1 -- 5
SRR 0 0 -- 0
First half -- 1, BHS GOAL, Morin (Oelrich), 8’; 2, BHS GOAL, Dickerson (Stone), 9’; 3, BHS GOAL, Dickerson (Oelrich), 13’; 4, BHS GOAL, Wright (Bitter), 31’.
Second half -- 5, BHS GOAL, Morin (Oelrich), 43’.
Saves -- Pemberton 1 (BHS); Nelson 3 (BHS); Fernholz 14 (SRR).