Lily Paquette’s 27th-minute goal and a shutout defensive effort guided Bemidji girls soccer to a narrow 1-0 win against East Grand Forks on Thursday evening at Chet Anderson Stadium.
The victory was Bemidji’s first in its last four meetings with their Lakes To Prairie Conference rivals, putting the Lumberjacks at the top of the conference standings with games against Hillcrest Lutheran Academy and Detroit Lakes still remaining.
Much of the possession and threats came from East Grand Forks during the first 20 minutes, as the Jacks struggled to stay on the ball in the midfield and out of defense. Chances that developed came on the counterattack, which allowed Emma Wright to pop up with an opportunity that was missed inside the Green Wave penalty area.
EGF had many opportunities to enter Bemidji’s penalty area, but shots during the first half became increasingly limited to efforts from distance. That included a free kick from Green Wave midfielder Kara Ellis that forced Lumberjack goalkeeper Kiera Nelson to parry the effort over the bar for a corner.
After absorbing pressure for most of the first 25 minutes, the Lumberjacks broke the deadlock in the 27th minute on another sweeping counterattack. Wright found Kate Halden making a darting run down the left, and Halden’s smooth cross from the flank was controlled by Paquette and struck past Shali Anderson at the near post.
Bemidji continued to open up East Grand’s defense on quick play through the middle of the field in the late stages of the first half, setting up a good look for Marah Bitter on the edge of the penalty area that Anderson was able to knock down comfortably.
The second half played considerably more evenly in the midfield thanks to the rugged defensive work of midfielders Alivia Thompson and Kate Corradi to neutralize EGF’s possession. Their work helped spring more opportunities in attack, creating a chance for Wright that was missed wide from an angle inside the 18-yard box while Paquette was left alone centrally.
The Lumberjacks’ backline of Mateja Malterud, Sage Zetah-Cornelius, and Gracee Bieber continued to prove difficult to beat in the second half, but danger came during a two-minute spell inside the final five minutes while Zetah-Cornelius was off the field for a yellow card. A Green Wave free kick from the flank by Ellis was spilled in traffic by Nelson, but the rebound follow-up missed wide at close range to keep Bemidji in front.
Bitter had an opportunity to put the game to bed with a dangerous free kick chance in the 79th minute, but Anderson was again well positioned to make the stop.
Nelson finished with six saves in goal to record her second shutout of the season.
Bemidji (4-4-1) will next travel to face Section 8AAA rival Brainerd on Saturday for a 4pm match, which will be part of a doubleheader with the Bemidji and Brainerd boys game at 2pm. Both will air on the Lumberjack Radio Network with pregame at 1:40pm on KBUN-FM 104.5 and Lumberjacks1 at kbunsportsradio.com.
Postgame interview with Bemidji head coach Logan Larsen: