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WOMEN'S SOCCER: Beavers prevail in PKs, advance in NCAA Tournament

With a 5-3 victory in PKs -- the program’s first-ever shootout win -- the Beavers prevailed over Central Oklahoma in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

112021.S.BP.BSUWSOC celebration.jpeg
The Beavers celebrate after freshman Emma Huelsnitz (10) scored the winning penalty kick in a first-round NCAA Tournament game against Central Oklahoma on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, in Emporia, Kan. (Photo courtesy of Emporia State Athletics)
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EMPORIA, Kan. -- Everybody went right.

There was no complex game plan for the Bemidji State women’s soccer team on Friday. But, sometimes, less is more.

“No, that was not the plan. They just prefer their penalty kicks to the right,” BSU head coach Jim Stone said. “I was just trusting God -- one way or another -- win, lose or draw.”

With a 5-3 victory in PKs -- the program’s first-ever shootout win -- the Beavers prevailed over Central Oklahoma in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Emporia, Kan.

Following a scoreless regulation and 20 minutes of overtime, the entire Bemidji State shootout delegation fired right. And all five scored, locking up the second NCAA Tournament victory in program history.

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“It’s an incredible feeling,” Stone said. “When you (reach the NCAAs) and you’re one and done, it’s painful. It hurts. So we’re excited that we get another opportunity to play on Sunday.”

Emma Huelsnitz had the decisive blow in the fifth round, a carbon copy of Erin Becker, Sara Wendt, Allyson Smith and Halle Peterson’s strong kicks that rocketed into the right side.

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Bemidji State senior Sara Wendt (14) controls the ball during a first-round NCAA Tournament game against Central Oklahoma on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, in Emporia, Kan. (Photo courtesy of Emporia State Athletics)

Alyssa Stumbaugh’s fourth-round save on a hard UCO shot to the left opened the door for Huelsnitz’s pivotal moment.

“That was super big because it also gave me confidence to put one away and win the game,” Huelsnitz said. “After I made it, I was just thrilled. Felt like I was going to throw up because I was so happy.”

For Stumbaugh, there were certainly some nerves that accompanied such a high-stakes shootout, especially as the last line of defense for her team. But she said they weren’t nearly as bad as they could have been had she not been properly prepared.

“It was sort of nerve-wracking, but if I’m being honest, God was preparing my heart for it,” she said. “He had me watching professional PKs last night, (looking at) technique and everything. … It wasn’t as nerve-wracking as if it was a surprise. He had already been preparing me.”

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To reach the euphoric moment, Bemidji State (18-1-3) had to endure 25 mph winds and a Bronchos attack that generated eight corner kicks within the first 30 minutes.

Megan French stepped up for a penalty kick for BSU in the 44th minute, but she went for the bottom left corner and Central Oklahoma keeper Kaitlyn Asher made the stop to preserve the 0-0 stalemate.

The Beavers played with the wind at their backs in the second half and saw the attack come to life even more, but the scoreboard still didn’t budge.

“I think the conditions of the field and the winds both played into that, to be honest,” Stone said. “I feel blessed and happy to be on the right side of it because I’ve been on the other side many, many times.”

Stumbaugh finished with five saves, but none were bigger than her momentum-seizing stop in the fourth round of PKs.

“The girls were relying on me to do my job, and God really blessed me with the opportunity to do it,” she said. “I knew my girls were going to make it into the net, so I just needed to get one save.”

Then Huelsnitz found herself in the biggest spot of her young career.

“It’s funny because as a freshman, I was really scared going into it,” Huelsnitz said. “But all the girls calmed each other down. We knew we had to put them all away, and we did.”

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The win vaults Bemidji State into the second round, where BSU will face Emporia State at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 21, in Emporia.

“I’m not ready to be done playing with these seniors,” Stumbaugh said. “They’re an amazing group of girls. They’re amazing players. I want to end on a win for them.”

Bemidji State 0, Central Oklahoma 0 (BSU wins SO 5-3)

UCO 0 0 0 0 -- 0

BSU 0 0 0 0 -- 0

First half -- No scoring.

Second half -- No scoring.

First overtime -- No scoring.

Second overtime -- No scoring.

Penalty kicks -- BSU wins 5-3.

Saves -- Stumbaugh (BSU) 5; Asher (UCO) 3.

112021.S.BP.BSUWSOC Sara Wendt.jpeg
Bemidji State senior Sara Wendt (14) controls the ball during a first-round NCAA Tournament game against Central Oklahoma on Friday, Nov. 19, 2021, in Emporia, Kan. (Photo courtesy of Emporia State Athletics)

Related Topics: SOCCERBEMIDJI STATE BEAVERS
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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