Apparently, the Bemidji Lumberjacks were a little bitter — as in Marah Bitter.
It was the big boot of Bitter that set up the game-winning goal by Sydney Breyen to give the No. 7 seeded Bemidji Lumberjacks a 2-1 upset victory over the second-seeded Brainerd Warriors in the Section 8-3A quarterfinals Wednesday, Oct. 13, at Adamson Field in Brainerd.
With the score tied 1-1 coming out of the halftime break, Bitter’s free-kick at 22:40 sailed over the heads of everyone and forced Brainerd keeper Peyton LeMeiur to punch it over the net and create a corner kick. It was Bitter again who skipped the corner kick toward the net. The ball slid in front of LeMeiur, but Bemidji’s Sydney Breyen raced to the rolling ball and stuck it in the back of the net for the game-winner.
“It like fell through the goalie’s arms and she didn’t quite get to it and I was there,” Breyen said. “We practice crossing all the time and I was there to cross and finish. It was awesome.”
At 16:34, LeMeiur had to punch another shot over the net. This time Brainerd eliminated the corner-kick threat. The Warriors couldn’t muster many second-half shots, however. The Warriors controlled the action in the first part of the second half but manufactured just eight shots for the entire game compared to Bemidji’s 10.
“I give a lot of credit to Bemidji,” Warriors head coach Grant Gmeinder said. “They put a lot of pressure on us tonight. They pressured hard and tackled hard. They competed really well. When a team does that, it makes it tough on people. That’s what we’ve been doing to teams all season long. They did that to us tonight.”
Brainerd defeated Bemidji 5-1 during the regular season. Despite having a better record than both Elk River and St. Michael-Albertville, the Lumberjacks were slotted in the No. 7 seed. The Lumberjacks changed formations to stop Brainerd’s outside speed. The move worked.
“We switched formations and we’ve grown as a team and I’m just so proud of us,” Breyen said. “I am so proud of us.”
Addy Kelly scored Bemdiji’s first goal. She was the last in a procession of slicing passes through the Warrior defense. The senior collected the pass. She reversed field, which gave her enough space between the side of the net and LeMieur, whose diving effort came up short and Bemidji struck first at 7:26.
“One of my teammates tipped it over their backline and I cut in front of the other girls and another of my teammates was yelling to me to slot it back so I did that,” said Breyen who assisted on the first-half goal. “Boom. She shot it in.”
Less than a minute later, on a Cally Robertson corner kick, Emma Tautges’ almost 6-foot frame helped her sneak in a header into the corner of the Bemidji net to tie the score.
“That was a great goal and I really thought it was going to turn the tide of the game,” Gmeinder said. “I thought we would get the next one, too. It’s great to see this team respond. It’s what they have done all year and it was great to see them respond in that moment.”
Less than a minute remaining in the half, on a free-kick, Brainerd congested the field in front of Bemidji’s net. A loose ball found the foot of Ally Dwyer whose shot nailed the crossbar and ricocheted 20 yards in the opposite direction.
Bemidji opened with the first big opportunity as Brainerd’s defense misplayed the ball into the possession of Lauren Berg who found herself with about 30-yards and only LeMeier in front of her. Berg’s shot went wide left at 36:50 in the first half.
At the 13:30 mark of the first, Emma Sheflo weaved and juked her way through the Bemidji defense to force a standoff with Bemidji keeper Kiera Nelson. Sheflo’s shot, however, found the outside of the Lumberjack net.
“They shut down the spaces that we were used to attacking,” Gmeinder said. “We’ve attacked wide all season long and had great success with that. They did a better job of shutting down those areas today and you can see our wide players didn’t get lost like they normally do.”
About 10 minutes prior Molly Pohlkamp had a 20-yard shot attempt from the corner that flew over the crossbar.
The Warriors only allowed 10 goals all season and owned eight shutouts. Teams only scored more than one goal against Brainerd’s defense three times this season. Bemidji made it four.
“It was a playoff atmosphere and obviously it’s going to be a different game,” Gmeinder said. “They made one more play than we did.
“It’s sad and it always is. This group thought we could go all the way to state and despite the score, I still think we could. It’s disappointing. This was a great group and a great season. There’s a lot to be proud of.”
Bemidji 1 1 -- 2
Brainerd 1 0 -- 1
First half: Bem-Addy Kelly (Sydney Breyen) 7:26; Brd-Emma Tautges (Cally Robertson) 6:17
Second half: Bem-Breyen (Marah Bitter) 22:27
Shots on goal: Brd 8, Bem 10
Goalkeepers: Brd- Peyton LeMieur (8 saves); Bem-Kiera Nelson (7 saves)
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.
Bemidji 2, Warriors 1
Key: Sydney Breyen scored a corner kick for the deciding goal.
Section: Brd 4-1-2; Bem 3-2-0
Overall: Brd 12-1-3; Bem 8-6-2
Next: Bemidji at Elk River/Sartell winner in Section 8-3A Semifinal 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16.