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WOMEN'S SOCCER: Bemidji State can’t buy a bounce, losing 4-1 to end NCAA Tournament run

The Beavers hit two posts, struck the crossbar and couldn’t buy a bounce all morning -- all tumbling into a 4-1 loss to Central Missouri in the third round of the NCAA Tournament.

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Bemidji State senior Allyson Smith (15) moves with the ball during a third-round NCAA Tournament game against Central Missouri on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, in Allendale, Mich. (GVSU Athletics)
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ALLENDALE, Mich. -- For a team that needed some magic, the Bemidji State women’s soccer team sure wasn’t very lucky on Friday.

The Beavers hit two posts, struck the crossbar and couldn’t buy a bounce all morning -- all tumbling into a 4-1 loss to Central Missouri in the third round of the NCAA Tournament in Allendale, Mich.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” BSU head coach Jim Stone said. “It’s almost easier to just get drilled, because then you walk away knowing the better team won. But when you play well and hit the three posts… you’re left scratching your head.”

While Bemidji State produced plenty of chances and beat the keeper with consistency, the Beavers struck the woodwork whenever the finishing touch was there. Between those three shots, the Jennies had maybe 12 inches of wiggle room to escape into the Elite Eight.

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Bemidji State freshman Mason Schilling (16) boots the ball ahead during a third-round NCAA Tournament game against Central Missouri on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, in Allendale, Mich. (GVSU Athletics)

“The goals didn’t come like the opportunities presented themselves,” Stone said. “(We need) to be a little more efficient with our opportunities if we want to get to that next level of quarterfinals, Final Fours and national championships.”

BSU (19-2-3) finally scored when Maria Stocke made a left-footed poke off a corner kick in the 56th minute, halving the deficit within 2-1. An impending equalizer felt close, but Ashleigh Martin scored for UCM (20-3-1) five minutes later and exhausted a promising second wind from Bemidji State.

“At halftime, I don’t think any of us thought that we were out of the game,” Stocke said. “When we got that goal, it was motivation to score again. But then they got a goal.”

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The difference all day was the finishing touch that Central Missouri possessed.

Sydney Leslie scored on a fourth-minute rocket that Beaver goalkeeper Alyssa Stumbaugh deflected but couldn’t direct over the crossbar. In the 36th minute, BSU couldn’t clear a corner, and the ball dangerously pinged around until Isa Yanes buried it for the 2-0 Jennies lead.

While UCM converted twice, Bemidji State couldn’t say the same about its best opportunities.

Mason Schilling fired just wide from the top of the box moments after Central Missouri’s opening goal. Then in the 27th minute, Allyson Smith put a beautiful ball past Jennies keeper Sydney Daris, but the ball struck the far post and somehow ricocheted back to Daris instead of into the net.

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Smith also launched a close-range missile on target just after halftime, but Daris somehow reacted in time to save the screamer from 10 yards away. Stocke went off the post from distance in the 54th minute, and Schilling drilled the crossbar in the 64th minute.

All golden chances. All unsatisfying results.

“It was super frustrating,” Stocke said. “I felt like we had a lot more super good chances than them. We were hitting the crossbar so much. It’s just super unlucky.”

UCM tacked on the final blow when Kassie Newsom scored on a penalty kick in the 87th minute, decisively putting BSU’s hopes to bed.

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Bemidji State senior Megan Dahl eyes the field before moving the ball during a third-round NCAA Tournament game against Central Missouri on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, in Allendale, Mich. (GVSU Athletics)

The Beavers slumped down in defeat at the final horn, consoling each other amid an unfamiliar reality for a team that won a program-record 19 matches and reached the third round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever.

While the loss is rightfully fresh, Stone will remember this season for much more than Friday’s finish.

“I’ll remember it as a great team that pushed our program further than it ever had been in the past,” Stone said. “They all treated each other with kindness and respect. That was probably the coolest thing about this team: the way they carried themselves and how they interacted with each other. They were a role model team for sure.”

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Bemidji State freshman Emma Huelsnitz (10) advances the ball forward during a third-round NCAA Tournament game against Central Missouri on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021, in Allendale, Mich. (GVSU Athletics)

Central Missouri 4, Bemidji State 1

BSU 0 1 -- 1

UCM 2 2 -- 4

First half -- 1, UCM GOAL, Leslie (Martin), 4’; 2, UCM GOAL, Yanes (Newsom), 36’.

Second half -- 3, BSU GOAL, Stocke (unassisted), 56’; 4, UCM GOAL, Martin (unassisted), 61’; 5, UCM GOAL, Newsom (PK), 87’.

Saves -- Stumbaugh (BSU) 1; Daris (UCM) 2.

Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
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