HIGHLIGHTS: Late Equalizer, Narrow Shootout Loss End Bemidji Girls’ Section Reign

Bemidji’s run at the top of Section 8A girls soccer ended in shoot0ut fashion on Saturday, as the Lumberjacks lost 4-3 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw with Sartell-St. Stephen in the Section final at Alexandria High School.

Peyton Oelrich’s 21st minute penalty kick appeared to be enough for the Lumberjacks as the second half progressed into its latter stages. But a late Sartell attack produced an equalizer from Sophia Speckhard on a setup by Chloe Turner in the 77th minute to force extra time, as Bemidji was left to wonder about two offside calls against Lauren Berg that negated goals in both the second half and first period of extra time.

Oelrich’s opener came after Addy Kelly was fouled keeping alive a corner kick that had been delivered by Sophia Morin.

The senior then stepped forward to convert for her 10th goal in the final six games of the season, putting Bemidji ahead 1-0.

Scoring opportunities were limited for both teams throughout regulation, but Bemidji had the best of them in the run of play on its way to a 1-0 halftime lead.

A major moment hit during the second half off a recycled corner kick from the Lumberjacks. Emma Wright steered a shot wide across the penalty area but into the path of Lauren Berg, who finished first time for what appeared to double Bemidji’s lead. However, the offside flag came up from the linesman on the near side of the field, taking away a second goal.

Midway through the second half, a chance broke at close range for Sydney Breyen, but she ran out of room along the endline and could only knock the ball out of play for a goal kick.

With time ticking down in the 77th minute, Sartell made the most of its lone shot of the second half. The Sabres’ Sophia Speckhard and Chloe Turner combined to cut through the Bemidji defense and allow for Speckhard to find the corner of the net with Kiera Nelson pulled out of goal to deal with Turner.

For a fleeting moment in the first period of extra time, Bemidji thought it had won the match. Berg was released through the back line on a pinpoint ball by Miah Stone before sweeping a finish into the far corner past Swanson. Yet again however, the flag came up late under very close circumstances for offside.

The flag stayed down in the second period of extra time when Addy Kelly was able to break through the Sabres’ defense, but her hurried shot under pressure from behind comfortably found the arms of Chloe Swanson in Sartell’s net.

For the second time in four days, Bemidji was back in a shootout–this time to determine the Section title. Both sides converted on their first two penalties, with Kate Martin and Marah Bitter both on target for Bemidji. In the third round, Nelson came up with a massive save on Kendal Coffin to give Bemidji a chance to take the lead on the next spot kick.

However, in equally impressive fashion, Swanson reached a full stretch to deny Emma Neubeck and keep the shootout level going into the fourth round. Both teams again converted, as Oelrich scored for a second time at the spot. In round five, after Sartell scored to go back in front, Sophia Morin’s penalty missed low to Swanson’s right to give the Sabres the championship.

Bemidji’s season ends at 9-4-2, with the shootout defeat their first Section playoff loss of any kind since a 3-0 loss to Rogers in the 2016 Section 8AA semifinals. The Lumberjacks graduate six seniors: manager Ella Martin and players Rosie Laitala, Emma Neubeck, Peyton Oelrich, Sophia Morin, and Liberty Dickerson.

Postgame interview with Bemidji head coach Logan Larsen: