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WOMEN’S SOCCER: Beavers upset Emporia State to reach Sweet 16

Mariah Nguyen’s first career goal was the game-winning strike of BSU’s 1-0 victory at Emporia State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The freshman booked the Beavers’ spot in the Central Region final for the first time in program history.

112421.S.BP.BSUWSOC Megan Carlson.jpeg
Bemidji State freshman Megan Carlson (27) kicks the ball during an NCAA Tournament game against Emporia State on Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Emporia, Kan. (Photo courtesy of Emporia State Athletics)
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EMPORIA, Kan. -- Mariah Nguyen has been hunting for a goal all season.

Well, hey, how’s the biggest goal in Bemidji State women’s soccer history sound?

“That sounds insane,” she said. “I can’t believe it.”

Nguyen’s first career goal was the game-winning strike of BSU’s 1-0 victory at Emporia State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Sunday. The freshman booked the Beavers’ spot in the Central Region final for the first time in program history.

“I don’t think she understands (the magnitude). I don’t think I even do yet,” Bemidji State head coach Jim Stone said. “It’s trying to hit me, but it hasn’t fully. It’s a surreal feeling right now.”

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Nguyen attacks opposing backlines with an energetic bounce off the bench, and she’s generated 14 shots without glory. But finally, in the 34th minute, Nguyen snuck one past the keeper for the first time all season.

“To be completely honest, I’ve never been around a team that’s so loved by God and willing to be faithful to him,” Nguyen said. “While we’ve been here, I’ve felt so led to speak up about it… the idea of trusting in God with everything. And he’s faithful.”

Nguyen found herself in the right spot when a shot was deflected to her feet. She made a run up on the ball and fired low, rolling the ball into the left side netting.

“I really like giving it off (for assists). But it’s really weird to be on the other side,” Nguyen said. “Hitting an Ally Smith(-inspired) ball to the corner just felt amazing.”

Despite all the pomp, the game certainly wasn’t one for the faint of heart. BSU had to withstand an unrelenting Hornet attack down the wire, which included a clearance on a shot that flirted with the goal line in the 62nd minute.

“Really no idea how it didn’t eventually end up in our net, but I guess it was our day,” Stone said. “We were blessed, and we were able to keep the clean sheet.”

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The Beavers (19-1-3) also held their breath when an ESU free kick in the 88th minute rocketed on target with hopes of equalizing. But Bemidji State keeper Alyssa Stumbaugh elevated and made a game-saving stop by guiding the ball just above the crossbar.

“It’s cutthroat at this time. It’s one and done,” senior center back Megan Dahl said. “We all walk onto the field, defense included, knowing that we need to play our best game. … We did a great job in the back of doing that.”

The final minutes were terribly desperate for Emporia State (19-2-1), and the Hornets gave BSU all they had. But it wasn’t enough to keep the Beavers from history.

Sara Wendt booted a celebratory clearance at midfield as the final seconds ticked off, and then everyone raced to Stumbaugh to celebrate Bemidji State’s deepest run ever.

“It’s totally insane, especially as a freshman this year, that we’re breaking all these records,” Nguyen said. “Every team that we’ve played against is so deserving, and it’s been really close. But I just feel like we’re in God’s favor, and he’s been on our side this whole ride.”

Stumbaugh finished with three saves. She collected her 11th shutout of the season, which ties Anna Fobbe for the most single-season clean sheets in school history. BSU’s 19 wins are also a new program high.

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The Beavers are dancing all the way to the Sweet 16, where they’ll meet Central Missouri, the region’s top seed, in the third round at 10 a.m. on Dec. 3 at Grand Valley State in Allendale, Mich.

“As long as I’m here, we’re going to do all we can to get (a national championship),” Dahl said. “We don’t want it to end, so we’re going to do everything we can to continue forward. It’s crazy to say that there’s four games left until we could be national champions.”

Bemidji State 1, Emporia State 0

BSU 1 0 -- 1

ESU 0 0 -- 0

First half -- 1, BSU GOAL, Nguyen (unassisted), 34’.

Second half -- No scoring.

Saves -- Stumbaugh (BSU) 3; Patton (ESU) 2.

Mariah Nguyen web mug 2021-22.jpg
Mariah Nguyen

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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