Bemidji State soccer begins 2011 with first practice Monday
Saturday, August 13, 2011
Bemidji State soccer begins 2011 with first practice Monday
BEMIDJI, Minn. -- In the world of collegiate athletics, the beginning of each new season brings with it a fresh start, anticipation, optimism and challenges.  For Jim Stone, who will officially begin his ninth season as head coach of the Bemidji State University women’s soccer team with the start of camp Monday, this season is no different.

The Beavers are coming off their most successful campaign in school history.  A year ago BSU posted a 14-4-1 overall record and went 9-3-1 in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) play to establish a new program record for wins and fewest goals allowed in a single season (16). The veteran roster, sprinkled with all-conference and all-region players, was led by a senior class of seven including the program’s top two scoring forwards of all time.

There is no doubt that a team losing nearly one-third of its roster to graduation will find itself in transition as 2011 gets underway, but according to Stone, that is part of the excitement. The departure of the senior class, opens the door for younger players that have put in the time and effort to step out of the shadows, into a starting role and build upon the foundation set by the players that have played at BSU before them.

Abby Kjonaas (Sr., GK, Fargo, N.D.) is a perfect example.  The senior goalkeeper has gained experience in spot starts throughout her career and is poised to take the team on her back in 2011 as the starting goaltender.

A year ago she played in five games, starting four, and posted a 3-0-1 record and a team-best .897 save percentage.

“I think Abby has done an incredible job of waiting for her time. Not just waiting for her time, but preparing for it,” commented Stone. “She always comes to training ready to work hard.  She always brings a great attitude and is humble.  We are excited for her.  She has also been a great leader off the field this spring and summer.”

The back line will be led by veteran defender Kelly Pointon (Sr., Woodbury, Minn.).  In three seasons, Pointon has worked her way onto the field more each season and in 2010, started along side all-region defender Alysha Domiano on 16 occasions.

“We expect that Kelly Pointon is going to be our leader back there,” said Stone.  “She has been a starter for most of her career here.  We expect her to fill a different role this year, to be a teacher back there and create a strong back line for us.”  

Pointon will be flanked on either side by players like fellow senior Brianna Duff (Sr., Ramsay, Minn.) and Kathryn Bjorge (Sr., D, Prior Lake, Minn.), who according to Stone, when playing their best, are as good as it gets in the NSIC.

Add to the back line that half of the 10 newcomers are potential defensive players.

“This freshman class was probably deepest at the defense position so we have some very strong, young players that are going to push our veterans,” commented Stone.

Since stepping on campus at BSU in the fall of 2008, Kari McAllen (Sr., D/M, Fargo, N.D.) has played in all but four games for the Beavers making starts in 18 at the midfield position.   Tiffany VanHaaften (Jr., M, Chaska, Minn.) has battled injury early in her career, but has established herself as one of the premier talents in the league when healthy, while Bri Scanlan (Sr., M/F, East Grand Forks, Minn.) is the most established scorer on the Beavers’ 2011 roster having tallied nine goals and nine assists in her previous three seasons.  Last season, she was third on the team with five goals, which included scoring three goals in the Beavers’ final five regular-season games.

“Our midfield will be very solid,” said Stone about his 2011 team.

The forward position is the area with the most uncertainties for 2011.  Stone is confident there are players on his roster with the skills and abilities to be scorers, but playing in the shadows of the tandem of Ashlee Ellefsen and Jamie Ford, who have shouldered the bulk of the Beavers’ scoring duties over the past four seasons, the players haven’t had many opportunities to prove themselves.

“It’s always difficult to predict who is going to score goals.  Certainly we don’t want to put pressure on her, but we think Jess Veoller has the potential to score some goals,” said Stone.  “I think our goals might be spread out more than they have in the past.  We might get more goals form the midfield and we might have to be better on our set pieces, getting our center-backs up in dead ball situations, but I think there are players with potential there.  

“Although there are a lot of unknowns, by no means are we going into the season with the cupboard completely bare.”   

The Beavers will certainly have their work cut out for them again this season.  In addition to the also competitive NSIC schedule, BSU will play future NSIC member Minot State University both at home and on the road, has regional match ups with Northern Michigan University and Michigan Technological University and a neutral site match against Colorado School of Mines.

An additional challenge ahead of the Beavers in 2011 is that after a warm up exhibition versus its alumni team Aug. 20, and an Aug. 27 exhibition versus University of St. Thomas, the team will be on the road for its next nine games, which includes its first four league contests.  

“It’s obviously a very difficult schedule, but we’ve always been a good road team and a team that enjoys being on the road together, so I am just trying to look at the cup as half full,” said Stone.  “We are excited about playing the bulk of our home games in the latter part of the season.”

Bemidji State University, located in Bemidji, Minn., is an NCAA Division II institution and a member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.