Oct. 7—BEMIDJI — Two freshmen, both alike in dignity, each scored their first career varsity goals on Thursday.
At fair, fall-foliage-lined Bemidji Middle School, where the Bemidji High School girls soccer team matched wits with Detroit Lakes, newcomer Isabel Renn — who ascended to the top squad last Saturday — first volleyed a perfect touch off an Emma Wright cross in the 13th minute to give the Lumberjacks a 1-0 lead.
Then, with four minutes to go in the first half, Alivia Thompson — a midfielder who has plied her trade with the varsity all season — knocked in a loose ball right in front of the net for a 3-0 BHS advantage. Spurred on by the first-years' contributions and plenty of chances to go around, the Jacks handled the Lakers 4-0 and clinched their first Lakes to Prairie Conference championship since 2018.
"We rotated some newer, younger players in," BHS head coach Logan Larsen said. "Two freshmen got goals today. I think it shows some good things coming up. All those young players are hungry. Everyone that rotated in played a good game, so I was happy we were able to do that."
Renn's first-half strike paid off a season spent working hard on the junior varsity team, where she performed well enough to be a late addition to this year's varsity group. In many ways, her icebreaking score on a frigid day was the culmination of everything she has invested.
"I think it's great. She had to prove it first on junior varsity," Larsen said. "And that's an instance where some kids will kind of hang their head and accept that, but she wanted this. So she pushed all season, and then immediately contributed with us. I'm excited to coach her. I had her last summer, and she's a fighter for sure."
Thompson, meanwhile, has made hay in the midfield all year. She had some chances to notch her first score earlier this season, but after those star-crossed attempts went wanting, she finally found nylon in the 36th minute on Thursday.
"I was super excited," Thompson said. "I've been wanting one all year, so I was happy to get one. I had a couple of close ones, but I finally put it in the net."
"It's just an element of what's to come," Larsen added.
Thompson was thrilled to see Renn tap in her goal as well, without any jealousy over how quickly Renn was able to convert for the first time.
"I was so excited for her," Thompson said. "I'm really happy that she got one."
The two ninth-graders weren't the only ones to knock in scores for Bemidji (7-5-3) against DL (6-9). Senior stalwart Marah Bitter booted a ball just inside the left post for a 2-0 lead during minute 18, and junior Hannah Voge deflected in a shot off an attempted goalkeeper clearance in the 49th minute to mark the final 4-0 margin.
Despite the wide scoring gap between the two teams, the Lumberjacks had a number of chances that they couldn't convert, and that's something Larsen would like to see shored up before BHS begins the Section 8-3A playoffs next Wednesday.
"Of course we want more," Larsen said. "We were really focused on the process, though. We wanted to work the ball and send it across. We know once we face harder, tougher defenses that have faced teams that have won state in the past, it's going to have to be a more indirect attack, where we work the ball wide, stretch them out and then deliver across. So although we didn't get a lot of goals, the process looked better."
Renn's initial score, which came off a beautiful looping ball from Wright, exemplified that strategy perfectly.
"That's how we draw it up," Larsen said.
With their youngsters in tow, the Jacks just might have the recipe for a playoff win. But before they get the chance, they'll face Duluth Marshall in the final game of the regular season at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 8, in Duluth.
Bemidji 4, Detroit Lakes 0
DL 0 0 — 0
BHS 3 1 — 4
First half — 1, BHS GOAL, Renn (Wright), 13'; 2, BHS GOAL, Bitter (McCrady), 18'; 3, BHS GOAL, Thompson (Bieber), 36'.
Second half — 4, BHS GOAL, Voge (unassisted), 49'
Saves — Nelson (BHS) 0; Myers (BHS) 7; Bettcher (DL) 10.