South Dakota

FOOTBALL: Bemidji State set to host historic NCAA Tournament opener at the Chet – Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — The Bemidji State soccer team was elated in 2021 when the selection show revealed that BSU had competed in the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history.

But when the 2022 tournament field was announced on Sunday, there was a different energy in the Hagg-Sauer-Halle. Not only are the Beavers back in the group for the second straight year, they host Winona State at Chet Anderson Stadium on Saturday, November 19 at 1:00 p.m. in the first-ever home playoff game for Bemidji State.

“It feels great,” said BSU head coach Brent Bolte. “It’s really special because we’re allowed to host this event. It means a lot to play here so hopefully we can spread the word, hopefully alums make it back. We had great support away from home (against Augustana) last year.”

The Beavers traveled to Sioux Falls, SD, and beat the fourth-seeded Vikings 28-24 to open their 2021 tournament run. This year, Bemidji State is No. 4 in Super Region Four, so the Warriors are forced to hike to the Chet while BSU enjoys the comforts of home.

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The Beavers celebrate after hearing their name on the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday, November 13, 2022 at Bemidji State’s Hagg-Sauer Hall.

Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

“It’s pretty cool because we’re part of the history of BSU,” said sophomore wide receiver Joey Baron. “No other (soccer) team has made it into the playoffs, let alone twice in a row. … Everyone’s hoping for a home playoff game, so hopefully we’ll get the fans there and then we’ll come out with the W.

The Beavers (9-2) are fairly familiar with WSU (8-3), a nearly annual foe since 1932. Earlier this season, Bemidji State defeated Winona State 34-24 during homecoming week at the Chet. However, this does not mean that the BSU automatically expects the same result this time.

“They play well in defence, they’re really good on special teams,” said Bolte. “…They’re going to come in here and make you earn every inch. You will have a gadget (plays on offense). Your offensive coordinator (first year) is a really good head. He did a good job when he was at Northern State. So you know you’re going to get a really well-trained, physical team, and you have to earn it. That’s why they’re in the playoffs.”

Unlike in 2021, the Beavers won’t have to worry about creating a travel plan to go on tour, giving them more time to prepare for their first-round opponent.

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Bemidji State head coach Brent Bolte addresses the Beavers following the NCAA Selection Show on Sunday, November 13, 2022 at Bemidji State’s Hagg-Sauer Hall.

Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

“You kind of get an extra day of preparation,” said Bolte. “You don’t go out on Friday morning and take a five or six hour bus ride. So for us it’s great to get the extra day where we’re with our trainers and get rehab. Those are all major factors why you get those home games. And of course we play well in the chet. So it’s exciting for us that this is the first-ever playoff home game, which is great. It’s crazy to think about. It was a long time coming.”

In mid-November, both teams should be cold on Saturday, with high and low temperatures currently forecast at 10 degrees and zero degrees respectively. As a Minnesota teammate, Winona State should be reasonably familiar with the conditions — but Bolte doesn’t rule out the idiosyncrasies of playing in the northern part of the state.

“I’m pretty sure they won’t be playing in the same elements as us,” Bolte said. “The Chet is unique. I’m sure people don’t like coming here. We don’t have the best accommodations. It’s a little bit different. It’s definitely a home advantage in terms of where we are and what we have technically. So we’re excited. This will be a fun game.”

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