While a 0-0 draw often accompanies mixed emotions, Thursday’s tone leaned toward disappointment for the Bemidji High School girls soccer team.
“That feels like a missed opportunity,” head coach Logan Larsen said. “I thought Alex played a good game, but we recognized what we could have done there, how they played their backline and how to exploit it, but we just didn’t execute.”
The Lumberjacks played Alexandria to a scoreless tie Thursday night at Chet Anderson Stadium on a night where legitimate scoring threats were hard to come by on either side.
“They were holding a high line, and we just couldn’t get it past their defense,” senior defender Emma Neubeck said. “We should have many times. They were a good team, they were an aggressive team. It was a tough game, for sure.”
The game wasn’t lacking in scoring opportunities, but rarely did something of promise culminate with anything on target.
"The strong defensive effort came from center defenders Kylee James and Myah Kremer and outside defenders Ellen Panther, Georgia Reemts, and Greta Oldenkamp," Alexandria head coach Tom Roos said. "Outside mids Emma Reineke, Kamryn Caouette, Ellie Heydt, and Sophia Korynta were also strong in sorting out their defensive responsibilities."
Through six games this year, BHS (3-1-2) has averaged 2.0 goals per night. That’s down from 3.6 last year. A tougher schedule certainly plays a role in that difference, but Larsen also wanted to see his team take advantage of the chances it had.
Peyton Oelrich rifled in a shot on target in the third minute, but that turned out to be anything but foreshadowing for Bemidji. Marah Bitter’s shot on goal in the 45th minute was the last that the Jacks mustered.
Alexandria’s defense has been good much of the season, allowing just 1.2 goals-per game coming into the night. The Cardinals stood tall again on that side of the ball against the back-to-back defending section champions.
"As we look ahead to games with Moorhead and Brainerd, it is important that we had a good defensive outing and strong performance by Sophia Vinje in goal against Bemidji," Roos said. "Other teams on our schedule so far have allowed us to have a defensive breakdown or two and still come out with a win. That isn't the case with Bemidji, Moorhead, and Brainerd."
Alexandria (5-0-2) saw windows of opportunity itself, including a few that looked like they could open the floodgates to consistent pressure. The Cardinals have been able to control the ball almost every night through the first six games of the season, but they knew the Lumberjacks would present a tougher challenge in that regard.
"Games like that do not always force the defensive unit and goalkeeper to be totally engaged in the game," Roos said. "This stretch of games against really strong teams force defenders and goalkeepers to play with their head on a swivel and to be communicating constantly. We are hoping that it will bring out the best in our defenders and goalie."
Bemidji goalkeeper Jody Pemberton played all match, the first game in which Bemidji hasn’t rotated keepers at halftime, and made seven saves. Vinje finished with six saves in net for Alexandria.
Alexandria will welcome in Moorhead (6-0) on Tuesday night at 7 before a Sept. 29 game at Brainerd (7-0) at 7 p.m. that could be for the Central Lakes Conference title with both teams unbeaten in CLC play.
(Eric Morken of the Echo Press contributed to this article)
Bemidji 0, Alexandria 0
ALX 0 0 -- 0
BHS 0 0 -- 0
First half -- No scoring.
Second half -- No scoring.
Saves -- Pemberton (BHS) 7; Vinje (ALX) 6.