The University of Minnesota Duluth soccer team knew coming into the final weekend of the regular season that winning both of their games would launch them into a playoff spot and allow them to continue their season. Thanks to some help, all they needed was a win and a tie.
The Bulldogs were one of the four teams battling to decide the final three spots in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference playoff race. Approaching the weekend, UMD was trailing the three contending teams by two points. Bemidji State, St. Cloud State and Concordia- St. Paul were all tied with 22 points while UMD was stalking their opponents with 20 points.
Suddenly, things turned in favor of the Bulldogs and they were in the front seat.
Sophomore forward Maureen Stormont continued her hot goal-scoring streak against the University of Minnesota-Crookston on Friday afternoon. After Hannah Keil booted the first goal for the Bulldogs in the fifth minute, Stormont sliced the Minnesota-Crookston backfield for a natural hat trick within the span of 28 minutes to put the Bulldogs comfortably up and cruise to a 4-0 victory.
UMD returned home on Sunday for the regular season finale versus Bemidji State.
The Bulldogs came out focused and determined to continue their season and they controlled much of the match, outshooting the Beavers 28-5, including 14-4 in the first half.
“We did a lot of good things to break them down defensively and had golden opportunities to score many times, especially in the first half,” said head coach Greg Cane.
With the match still scoreless, UMD finally took advantage of an opportunity in front of the net. Senior Kelsey Gratz along with Stormont hit the left post on ensuing shot attempts, but Stormont got her own rebound and blasted it to the back of the net the give UMD a 1-0 lead in the 19th minute.
The goal by Stormont was her fourth goal of the weekend and concluded the regular season with back-to-back eight-point weekends. The NSIC recognized Stormont’s performance by giving her player of the week honors.
However, the one-goal lead Stormont gave the Bulldogs wouldn’t last long. A minute later, Beavers’ Mary O’Brien beat senior goalie Hanna Iaizzo to knot it up at one. UMD and BSU would remain deadlocked through regulation and through two 10-minute overtime sessions.
The 1-1 draw against Bemidji State was the last time five Bulldog seniors (Ashley Brown, Kelsey Gratz, Hanna Iaizzo, Kristi Mehrman and Abby Serreyn) will get to suit up at Malosky Stadium.
“I can’t believe it’s already over,” said senior defender Ashley Brown, who made her 34th and final home game appearance. “It was a fast four years. It would have been nice to end things with a win.”
Even with the tie against Bemidji State, UMD ended up locking up a playoff berth thanks to Winona State beating Concordia-St. Paul. UMD flipped the tables and edged out Concordia-St. Paul by two points for the eighth seed.
“In the last couple of weeks we have played better and better each week and our intensity and focus has been good,” Cane said. “Although we didn’t get two wins this weekend, we secured a spot and that’s what we needed to do.”
The Bulldogs are set to clash with Minnesota State-Mankato on Wednesday in the first round of the NSIC tournament. It won’t be easy to knock off the Mavericks, however. They are coming off a school-record 15 straight unbeaten streak, they are undefeated at home this year, and currently sit as the No. 1-ranked team in the nation.
But UMD is playing their best soccer of the year at the right time. In the past five games, the UMD offense has averaged 3.2 goals per game. They are led by Stormont, who has eight goals and two assists during that stretch.
“Mankato better get ready,” said Brown.
And rightfully so.
Brown and the rest of the seniors are looking to get their revenge on the Mavericks and continue their postseason run. The Mavericks had the upper hand against the Bulldogs in the teams’ only meeting of the year, an Oct. 12 matchup at Malosky Stadium, defeating the Bulldogs 5-1.
BY EVAN SMEGAL firstname.lastname@example.org