2003 Prospectus
Tuesday, July 29, 2003
2003 Outlook
Head coach Jim Stone knows that the Bemidji State University soccer program is on its way up. The second-year bench general will put to the field his first recruiting class this season - a bunch of 14 - and look to take it to the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Tournament in early November.

“ I want to be in the conference tournament at the end of the season and have a decent seed going into it,” said Stone.

Tying the BSU season record for most wins (4), Stone and the Beavers still were looking on from the outside in 2002. The squad missed the league tournament as the top eight teams advanced. Stone mentions the post-season activity as a goal, but adds that his club should need a few years to be nationally competitive.

“This year, I want to become competitive inside our conference and down the road in two or three years, nationally competitive,” said Stone. “I think we will become recognized with some of the nationally premier programs in the near future.”

There are a couple teams within the NSIC that, Stone points out, will be an indicator of how good Bemidji State is when it plays them.

“The measuring sticks are Winona State and Minnesota-Duluth,” said Stone. “When we get to the point that those two teams have to compete against us, we will be on our way to being respected in the conference.”

WSU and UM-D have taken the past six conference titles with UM-Duluth winning the 2002 tournament championship with a 15-5-2 overall record. Since the league began in 1996, the Bulldogs hold a 50-10-4 (.813) mark while the Warriors are 49-9-5 (.817).

The Team

Taking a quick glance at the 2003 roster, one might assume that with only one senior and 14 first-year players, the Beavers are going to struggle on the field. But that is exactly the opposite of what Stone envisions.

“ We are going to be more talented than any other team in the history of Bemidji State soccer,” said Stone. “The youth is a weakness, but the players won’t be intimidated by losses or really good teams.

“ Hopefully, if we start out (the season) strong, they can get a quick dose of confidence and ride that to some wins.”

It will be imperative for BSU to get off on the right foot this season because after a single game at Bethel College and two tournaments, the green and white travels to the Northern Michigan Tournament, Sept. 13-14. Northern Michigan went 7-12-1 last year but reached 10 wins both in 2000 and 2001.

“ Northern Michigan is a solid team and it should be a good tournament,” said Stone.

In addition to that, Bemidji State faces a North Dakota club Sept. 19, which Stone considers “a top 25 team.” Last year, the Fighting Sioux finished fourth in the North Central Conference with a 10-6-1 overall record. UND qualified for the postseason for the first time in team history.

The next day, Minnesota-Duluth hosts the Beavers.

“ It will be a good test for us to have UND and UM-Duluth back-to-back,” said Stone.

The Players

If a team could only have one senior, it might be best to have her at the goalkeeper position. A netminder that directs traffic and has experience is an important piece of the puzzle. That is exactly how Bemidji State has it. Senior Nikki Dalka holds all major records (saves, saves/game, goals allowed average) in the brief history of BSU soccer and has appeared in all 48 games in her career.

“ I am expecting big things out of her,” said Stone. “She has the best team that she has ever had in front of her. Therefore, I expect her to have her best season.”

Dalka started all 16 games last season, posting a 4-12 record. She played 1,381:42 minutes, had a 2.87 goals allowed average and tallied 186 saves. The saves total is second in school history - Dalka’s record 236 saves in 2001 is 10th all-time in NCAA Division II.

The two-time NSIC Defensive Player of the Week in 2002 has totaled 542 career saves, which ranks 12th on the DII charts. Also, her 11.45 career saves per game average is good for fifth in the country.

Perhaps equally as important as the goalkeeper is a great scorer. BSU should not have to worry about that with sophomore forward Lindsey Natwick. The native of Bismarck, N.D. returns as the school’s second-most prolific freshman scorer. Her 26 points (10 goals-six assists) in 2002 is second only to Becky Elk’s 32 points (14 goals-four assists) in 1999.

Natwick started in 15 contests and notched two game-winners including one in a record-setting six-goal contest against Wisconsin-Superior (10/1/02). She added two assists for a total of 14 points - the most ever in a single match for BSU. The 2002 NSIC First-Teamer led the club in goals, assists and points and stands fourth in career assists (6), third in goals (10) and third in points (26).

“ She should be in heaven because she will be surrounded by three or four players who can put the ball in the net like she can,” said Stone. “I am expecting her to have another good year.”

Four other returners add game experience: sophomore defenders Maria Balsimo, Cristina Egnell, Karli Engelmeier and Erin Foss. Balsimo, Egnell and Foss all started in 16 games last year. Engelmeier played sparingly in three contests.

“ Egnell will be our captain because she does everything for our team,” said Stone. “She will be playing in the backfield and be a great leader.

“ Foss returns with another year of experience. She will be able to help some of the younger players.”

Strength in numbers. If one believes that statement, then the freshmen class will add a lot to the Bemidji State program. Certainly, Stone has a good feeling about his newcomers.

“ There are going to be some freshmen that are going to stick out,” said Stone. “As a whole, they all are going to have to step up and play much older if we are going to be successful.”

A player that is expected to do some damage right away is freshman midfielder Christina Hicks. A Hopkins, Minn., native, Hicks sprained her MCL this summer and may miss the first couple of games.

“ For us to be successful, Hicks needs to make an immediate impact,” said Stone.

Stone cites freshmen forwards Ashley Lehmeier, Katie Meinhardt and Whitney Sengthao as “all very good prep goal scorers.”

“ I expect them to make the transition to college very quickly.”

A player in the backfield that will make a difference is Tegan Moehn from Osseo, Minn.

“ She is really going to strengthen us in the backfield,” said Stone.

Knowing that this is Dalka’s last year in front of the net, Stone bolstered his line-up with two goaltenders, freshmen Kari Torgerson and Jacque Wagner. The two will push Dalka for playing time.