WOMEN’S SOCCER: Beavers win springtime friendly in return to the pitch
“It’s just a game, but at the same time, it’s more than a game to us," BSU head coach Jim Stone said. "To be able to do what we love, it really is a blessing.”
BEMIDJI -- Chet Anderson Stadium oversaw the official return of corner flags, scarves and soccer balls on Saturday afternoon.
For the Bemidji State women’s soccer team, it’s been a long time coming.
“Soccer is obviously a big part of my life, and it’s a huge part of (the players’) lives,” BSU head coach Jim Stone said. “It’s just a game, but at the same time, it’s more than a game to us. To be able to do what we love, it really is a blessing.”
The Beavers opened up their spring season against Minnesota Duluth, winning 1-0 in an exhibition that felt more like a celebration of the sport than a postseason thriller. But that’s why the makeshift season is here.
The 2020 fall season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, so Bemidji State is filling the calendar with springtime friendlies. Saturday’s exhibition was the program’s first-ever game in the month of April.
“From a coaching perspective, you’re trying to juggle and balance some different perspectives,” Stone said. “You’re trying to give the seniors the best experience possible, give them one last go. But you also have an eye on the fall, thinking about development and lineups into the future.”
The game was packed with storylines, and not always necessarily for what played out on the pitch.
Bemidji native Isabelle Morin made her first collegiate start, while another Bemidji native -- Stone’s daughter, Alyse -- joined the BSU sidelines for the first time after a year at Southwest Minnesota State. One of the team’s most lethal scoring threats in Allyson Smith also returned to action after missing the entire 2019 season due to injury.
In the stands, fans bundled up in coats, winter caps and blankets to stay warm on a cool afternoon that resembled a typical late-fall setting -- down to an ice-free Lake Bemidji for the backdrop. The sun even poked through overcast skies to blanket the field by the 52nd minute.
And then there were the more colorful episodes. Shouts of “Way to go, Cheese!” and “Good idea, Juice!” rang out from the crowd, cheering on senior goalkeeper Emma Riedi and junior defenseman Megan Majewski.
Two bald eagles circled overhead to catch a bit of the first half. Tracy Dill, BSU’s Director of Athletics, was shagging balls behind the nets. And freshman Anna Breffle used a break in play to wave to her grandmother, who had a front-row seat, in the second half.
“I didn’t think we were going to have fans,” Breffle said. “So it’s good that my grandma and grandpa can come, and my parents and everyone else’s parents.”
Breffle’s family also witnessed the highlight of the game in the 35th minute. Breffle gained possession at midfield, made a 45-yard run inside the box, beat two defenders and dished to Erin Becker after drawing in a third defender. Becker had an easy one-time finish for the goal.
“We didn’t come out that strong, but in the end, we still got the win. And a win is a win,” Breffle said. “I was planning on shooting, but then (Becker) was calling for it, so I just decided to play it (to her).”
On the opposite end, Riedi was a perfect 6-for-6 on save opportunities as the Beavers claimed victory. The team has also played four scrimmages this year, but Saturday’s affair was a worthy one for the first officially recognized game of the spring season.
“Anytime it becomes more real, it becomes a better experience for the players. So I think they were excited,” Stone said. “… We want to learn how to play together. We want to be able to solve different tactical problems and create solutions on the field that are going to be seen in the fall.”
The game ended with a COVID-customary wave from team to team in place of handshakes, and then the Beavers migrated toward the bleachers for a salute to the fans.
Prior to opening kickoff, the program also honored its five seniors: Alanna Mattson, Ryin Carreras, Maggie Hallock, Carolyn Smith and Riedi.
“We’re working as hard as we can to go undefeated,” Breffle said. “We’re just here for the seniors to get another season in.”
Bemidji State will return to the Chet at 6 p.m. Friday, April 16, to host Minnesota State Moorhead for a regular season game.
Bemidji State 1, Minnesota Duluth 0
UMD 0 0 -- 0
BSU 1 0 -- 1
First half -- 1, BSU GOAL, Becker (Breffle), 35’.
Second half -- No scoring.
Saves -- Riedi (BSU) 6; Grenz (UMD) 4; Osborne (UMD) 1.