Bemidji girls soccer set the stage for next week’s Section 8A playoffs with a convincing 3-1 win against North subsection top seed East Grand Forks in their regular season finale Thursday evening at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Goals from Lauren Berg, Sophia Morin, and Peyton Oelrich in a 10-minute span on either side of halftime turned the tide for the Lumberjacks, who had gone behind on a long-distance free kick from the Green Wave’s Grace Kronlund in the first half.
Good chances primarily belonged to Bemidji in the first half, with Oelrich dragging a shot against the post just minutes into the game after creating space in the penalty area.
Another good opportunity went begging later when Morin’s cross from the right slipped through the arms and legs of East Grand Forks goalkeeper Kadynn Melquist. Josie Aitken met the cross with a first-time shot, only to be repelled by defender Kylee Mattison with a clearance off the line.
The visitors only mustered two shots in the first half, with both coming on free kicks from Kronlund and the second opening the scoring in the 28th minute. Setting her sights from just over 30 yards from goal, Kronlund belted a strike over Bemidji goalkeeper Kiera Nelson to push the Green Wave in front.
Bemidji thought it had leveled the game only minutes later after Liberty Dickerson’s free kick was batted by Melquist, giving Addy Kelly the chance to ram the ball into the net as Melquist tried to regather. After conferring with his linesman, the center official deemed that Kelly had fouled Melquist as she reclaimed the ball and the goal was waved off.
The Lumberjacks did get their equalizer in the 35th minute, and Kelly was once again decisively involved. Skipping through two challenges after winning possession, the junior split a pass through the Green Wave backline to find Lauren Berg, who steadied herself running through before clipping a finish beyond Melquist.
Three minutes later, Bemidji won a penalty after a bouncing ball inside the 18-yard box of East Grand Forks caught the arm of one of the Green Wave defenders. Morin was given the responsibility of the spot kick, and she beat Melquist to give the Lumberjacks a halftime lead.
Oelrich broke through for Bemidji’s third in the 45th minute, scoring off her own blocked shot from Morin’s cutback cross.
Despite a 14-5 advantage in shots on goal, Bemidji still needed to stave off more threatening looks from East Grand Forks in the second half. Another Kronlund free kick tested Nelson, who tipped the near-post shot against the post.
The Green Wave also had a goal ruled out when Mya Langerud was judged to be offside after converting from close range off a deflected shot from Kara Ellis.
Melquist finished with 10 saves, aided on the other recorded save by Mattison’s goal line block. Nelson played the full game for Bemidji and tallied four stops.
The Lumberjacks complete the regular season with a 6-3-2 record and enter the Section 8A playoffs with the #4 seed in the North after the coaches’ vote on Wednesday. Bemidji will begin its quest for a fourth-straight Section 8A title against North #5 seed Hillcrest Lutheran in a first round game at Chet Anderson Stadium on Tuesday at 7pm. Pregame will be at 6:40pm on KBUN-FM 104.5 and KBUN1 at kbunsportsradio.com.
Postgame interview with Bemidji head coach Logan Larsen: