Goals from starters and substitutes alike and a fourth shutout of the season helped North #4 seed Bemidji girls soccer secure a third playoff victory in four seasons against #1N East Grand Forks on Thursday with a 3-0 Section 8A quarterfinal win at East Grand Forks High School.
Peyton Oelrich, Josie Aitken, and Lauren Berg found the net for the Lumberjacks, while Kiera Nelson and the Bemidji backline preserved their third shutout in four games to secure Bemidji’s place in the semifinals on Tuesday against #2N Alexandria–a 2-0 winner on Thursday against #3N Detroit Lakes.
After defeating the Green Wave for the 2017 championship and topping them on the road last season at the semifinal stage, the Lumberjacks bolted in front in this season’s playoff meeting after just nine minutes of play. With the wind aiding, Sophia Morin rifled a flipped throw-in to the head of Peyton Oelrich, who skimmed a header past East Grand Forks goalkeeper Kadynn Melquist for her eighth goal in Bemidji’s last four games.
The Lumberjacks largely controlled possession in the opening half hour of play and were aided by a strong cross breeze slightly at their backs as well. In the 27th minute, the lead was doubled thanks to a pair of substitutes, as Anna Renn sliced a cross through the penalty area that eluded Lauren Berg before finding Aitken for a slotted finish in the middle of the box.
Nelson finished with five stops for the Lumberjacks during the afternoon, but had two to make in quick succession not long after. Grace Kronlund’s free kick was knocked down out of the air by the sophomore goalkeeper before she smothered a rebound effort from Camryn Adams.
Despite carrying the 2-0 lead at the break, Bemidji had to see off a wave of East Grand Forks pressure in the opening 10 minutes of the second half. Utilizing counterattacks into the wind, the Lumberjacks started to knock on the door of finding a third goal as the half progressed.
The game’s final goal came as East Grand Forks committed more numbers forward in desperation in the final minute of play. Addy Kelly played Berg through the middle of the field, and the speeding winger raced past the remaining members of the Green Wave backline before tucking a finish under Melquist to round off the victory.
The Lumberjacks finished with an 11-5 advantage in shots on goal.
Bemidji’s quest for a fourth-straight Section title will now take the Lumberjacks (8-3-2) to yet another location that was part of their run to last season’s crown, as they will square off with Alexandria on Tuesday at 7pm. The Lumberjacks topped the Cardinals 4-3 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw in last season’s quarterfinals.
Postgame interview with Bemidji head coach Logan Larsen:
Section 8A Girls Soccer Bracket
Quarterfinals (high seed hosting)
#1N East Grand Forks 0-3 #4N Bemidji
#2N Alexandria 2-0 #3N Detroit Lakes
#1S Sartell-St. Stephen 2-1 #4S Sauk Rapids-Rice
#2S St. Cloud Cathedral 3-1 #3S Little Falls
Semifinals (high seed hosting–both games Tuesday, Oct. 20)
#2N Alexandria v. #4N Bemidji (7pm)
#1S Sartell-St. Stephen v. #2S St. Cloud Cathedral (4pm)