A burst of three goals conceded in just over two minutes of game play proved decisive as Bemidji girls soccer was topped at undefeated Brainerd 4-2 on Tuesday evening at Don Adamson Field.
Emma Sheflo kicked off the scoring for the host Warriors (8-0) after just 11 minutes, as she steered a cross from Allyson Weldon past Bemidji’s Jody Pemberton.
The Lumberjacks had not threatened frequently to that point, but responded after just four minutes with Lauren Berg’s third goal of the season. Peyton Oelrich found Sophia Morin down the right, and after the senior winger created space, she found the onrushing Berg for the first goal conceded by Brainerd this season in its eighth game.
The game’s crucial stretch began in the 27th minute with a Brainerd corner kick. Cally Robertson served up a lofted cross that met the head of Mari Devine to restore the Warriors’ lead, this time for good.
Less than 30 seconds later, the Warriors had raced to a two-goal lead thanks to the speed of Sheflo. After being released on a pass through Bemidji’s backline, she won a footrace into the penalty area before tucking a low finish to the corner past Pemberton.
The sequence only got worse for Bemidji in the 29th minute, when Devine was fouled from behind in the 18-yard-box to earn Brainerd a penalty. The senior midfielder stepped up to convert the spot kick for her second goal of the half and a sudden 4-1 advantage for the home side.
Splitting time in net with Pemberton, sophomore goalkeeper Kiera Nelson came up with several key shutdown stops in the second half, including on a flurry of chances created by the Warriors with about 10 minutes gone.
The Lumberjacks hoped to get a jolt of energy after breaking through Brainerd’s defense a second time in the 57th minute thanks to sophomore Emma Wright. The forward took a pass from Addy Kelly before cutting past her defender and firing a low strike past the Warriors’ Gracelyn Dickinson for her third goal of the year.
Nelson was once again called into rapid action a few minutes later, shutting down a chance from Weldon to keep Bemidji within two.
Brainerd outshot Bemidji 17-7 with a 12-5 edge in shots on target. Pemberton finished with three first half saves before Nelson stopped all five shots she faced in the second half.
Bemidji drops to 3-2-2 this season, winners of just one of the last five matches it has played. The Lumberjacks will have a rare Section 8A matchup within the Central Lakes Conference schedule on Thursday as they host Fergus Falls at 7pm. The game can be heard on the Lumberjack Radio Network on KBUN-FM 104.5 and kbunsportsradio.com beginning with pregame at 6:45.
Postgame interview with Bemidji head coach Logan Larsen: