BEMIDJI, Minn. – Frustration can be a very good motivator. Bemidji State University head soccer coach Jim Stone thinks that may be the case for his 2013 team.
“I think we have a very hungry team,” Stone said. “A team that believes it can accomplish some really great things and wants to put in the work to make it happen.”
“I really like their mentality.” Stone added, “I asked our players, ‘What do you want to do this year?’ and the overwhelming response was, ‘Win.’”
Winning was something the Beavers did often in 2012. BSU posted a 10-7-2 overall record and finished sixth in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) play with a league mark of 8-5-2. By some standards a record above .500 and berth into the conference tournament would be enough. But Stone said six one-goal losses, which included two in overtime, and a 1-0 loss to Upper Iowa in the NSIC Tournament quarterfinal game, stung and left BSU wanting more in 2013.
The advantage of returning the bulk of a line up is experience. Stone lost just two players from his regular lineup a year ago and because his team is in place and knows what to expect, he thinks BSU is ahead of the curve as the 2013 season is set to get underway.
“I think our biggest strength is our experience,” said Stone. “We have a well-balanced roster, we have solid depth and I think we will have competition at every spot. Unlike last year, the learning curve is not as steep. A lot of the main concepts as far as how we want to play are understood. Now we can refine and get into the details that may make the difference in some of those one-goal games.”
That experience begins with the team’s captains: Tiffany VanHaaften (Sr., M, Chaska, Minn.), Sam Lumberg (Sr., D, Woodbury, Minn.) and Maria McLeod (Jr., M, White Bear Lake, Minn.). All three are All-NSIC-caliber players and have been around the program for at least four seasons.
“We feel really blessed to have the trio of captains that we do. They are talented, hard-working, character kids and are good decision makers on and off the field.” Stone added, “The exciting thing is that all three of them continue to get better.
“To have them all returning is pretty incredible.”
A Third-Team All-NSIC pick as a junior, Lumberg has not missed a game during her collegiate career playing on the BSU backline in all 57 games since arriving on campus in the fall of 2010. She was a key contributor to five shutouts in 2012 and earned a point and an assist, on seven shots last fall. She has four collegiate assists and was a member of a 2010 BSU defensive corps that set a school record for goals allowed (16).
“I think Sam is really starting to be a vocal leader for us,” said Stone. “It is so exciting to see her development into a leader.”
McLeod, a redshirt junior, returns to the captain ranks for 2013 after serving in the same capacity in 2012. She started all 19 games for the Beavers at midfield as a sophomore and has played in 38 consecutive games for BSU. She established career-highs for goals scored (2), assists (3) and points (7), while both of her 2012 goals stood as game-winners. In two seasons, McLeod has accumulated two goals and five assists and is a regular member of the NSIC All-Academic squad.
“I truly believe Maria is going to have a break out year for us offensively. It has been a mental transition for her from defense to offense,” said Stone. “I think she is capable of big things for us this year.”
“What can you say about a student-athlete that blows out both knees and comes back to become an all-conference player?,” Stone said about VanHaaften.
A fifth-year senior, VanHaaften, will also lead the Beavers for the second consecutive season. She started all 19 matches for BSU in 2012, was a force in the midfield both offensively and defensively and was rewarded by being named Third-Team All-NSIC at the conclusion of the season. The junior led the team in assists with a career-high six, and finished the season with three goals, which also stood as a single-season career-high. In addition, VanHaaften is a NSIC All-Academic team member and was selected First Team Capital One/CoSIDA Academic All-District in 2012.
When it comes to finding the back of the net and getting the Beavers on the scoreboard, Stone needs to look no further than junior forward Mary O’Brien (Maplewood, Minn.). O’Brien made a splash as a sophomore, starting all 19 games. She led the team and finished second in the NSIC with 10 goals, which included two game-winners, to go with four assists and finished the season with 24 points, which placed her third in the league. Along the way, she garnered Second-Team All-NSIC and NSCAA/Continental Tire Women’s NCAA Division II All-Central Region Third-Team honors.
“The great thing about Mary is that she has always had tenacity in the 18-yard box and just seems to know the right spot to get in to score goals. She is starting to become a better all-around player now that she is focusing only on soccer. She is becoming a better passer and her touch is getting better.” Stone added, “It will be interesting to see the level she can achieve. The sky is the limit if she chooses to really dig in.”
Another key to BSU’s success during the coming season is its goalkeeper. Sonja Barr (Jr., GK, Duluth, Minn.) returns for her third season after seeing time in 18 games with 14 starts for the Beavers in 2012. She finished the season with an 8-4-2 record, 109 saves, a 1.06 goals against average and accounted for a quartet of shutouts. Since beginning her collegiate career in 2011, she is 10-6-0 and has allowed less than 1.10 goals per game.
“Sonja has a lot of experience as a goalkeeper for us. Now its up to her to show us that she has learned from those experiences,” said Stone. “We are excited about where she is. She looks better than she ever has as a shot stopper and she has really improved her hands.” He added, “She has the potential to be a solid goalkeeper for us.”
No team is complete without depth and role players. Stone was quick to point out one of those difference makers will be Carly Dietrich. A sophomore from St. Charles, Ill., Dietrich played in 18 games for BSU, which included five starts. Her only collegiate goal game in a 1-0 victory Sept. 30 at Southwest Minnesota State University. Predominantly a defender, Dietrich has proven herself to be versatile.
“She is certainly good enough to start, but most likely won’t if our center backs stay healthy,” said Stone. “She is the type of player we need to find minutes for and will play a role for us somewhere. We can plug her in just about anywhere and she will bring a lot when she gets onto the field.”
In addition, Stone will add eight newcomers to his 2013 roster. With only two positions vacated in the regular line up, Stone feels that these new players will not only add depth, but could have an impact for the Beavers from day one.
“I think the holes have been filled very nicely with our incoming class. I expect a couple of these kids to have an opportunity to play early and push a lot of our veterans.” Stone added, “We think that we brought in a class that is going to not only compliment or roster, but challenge our players and hopefully move us forward.”
The Bemidji State soccer team officially opens its 2013 campaign Sept. 6 at 5 p.m. when it hosts Missouri Western State University for a nonconference affair. The match begins BSU’s 18-game regular-season schedule and is slated to be the first soccer game ever played at BSU’s Chet Anderson Stadium, which is currently undergoing a surface renovation to install field turf and become the BSU soccer team’s new home.
“It’s going to be really exciting to have the opportunity to play under the lights,” Stone said. “I think there will be a piece of all of us that will really miss our old field and playing and atmosphere, but how many venues have the location of Chet Anderson Field?
“I think we are all excited and hope we can do something special to open it up.”
BSU’s 2013 schedule is comprised of 15 NSIC contests and three nonconference matches. After hosting Missouri Western State, BSU travels to Michigan’s upper peninsula to battle Michigan Technological University and Northern Michigan University, all three of which Stone has the utmost respect for.
“They will be great games and games that will stretch us. We hope they are more important than just preparing us for our conference season. If we want to be contenders beyond the NSIC this season, regional games like these are important and could have a major impact on our season overall.
For more information on the Bemidji State men’s hockey program, follow the Beavers on Twitter (@BSUBeaversSoccer or @BSUBeavers), like them on Facebook (facebook.com/BSUBeavers) or sign up for the TXTUpdates from BSUBeavers.com text-messaging system through the "Multimedia" pull down menu on the main page of BSUBeavers.com.
Nestled in Northern Minnesota’s wooded region and located on the shore of Lake Bemidji, Bemidji State University sponsors 15 varsity athletic programs with NCAA Division I men’s and women’s hockey membership in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, while its 13 NCAA Division II programs hold membership in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).