When a soccer ball is in Zoe Fisher's area, she pursues it relentlessly.
Usually an opposing defender or goalkeeper will clear the ball harmlessly away, but sometimes Fisher's doggedness is rewarded.
Midway through the first half against Southwest Minnesota State University on Sunday, the Minot State University sophomore raced around a defender, beat SMSU goalie Sonya Smith to the ball and drew a foul just inside the 18-yard box. MSU sophomore Emilie Rebelo buried the ensuing penalty kick for the opening goal of the Beavers' 2-1 win at Herb Parker Stadium.
Minot State University sophomore forward Zoe Fisher pursues the ball alongside Southwest Minnesota State University’s Megan Haninger during the Beavers’ 2-1 win Sunday at Herb Parker Stadium.
"When there's a chance for a goal, (Fisher) finds another gear," MSU coach Jason Spain said. "You see her just turn on - her facial expression and everything - and swim through those players. She's dynamic, that's all you can say. She may not have got on the board, but she created that first goal, which changed everything."
SMSU (3-2 overall, 1-2 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference) controlled possession in the opening few minutes of the second half, but MSU's back line kept the Mustangs at bay.
As the second half progressed, most of the action was on MSU's offensive half of the field something Spain attributes to the depth of the Beavers (4-1-1, 2-1). MSU played 19 players compared to 11 for SMSU.
"I think our depth really helped us out," Spain said. "They came at us pretty hard in the second half and then just died off."
MSU junior Jamie MacFarlane scored off a long pass from classmate Taylor Carlstrom in the game's 72nd minute. MacFarlane hooked the bouncing ball from the right side of the field into the lower left corner of the net.
"We talked about before the game, to win this game would mean a lot to go up in the standings in the region," MacFarlane said. "Once that second goal just went in, we got more confidence and started passing it around and playing our game."
Less than three minutes after MacFarlane's strike, the Mustangs scored their lone goal on a penalty kick after MSU was whistled for a hand ball in the box.
The goal was the first allowed by MSU since a 1-0 overtime loss at the University of Mary on Sept. 2, ending the Beavers' three-match shutout streak. But it wasn't enough for SMSU.
"We felt like we had to score two to be in the game today, and we didn't do that," said SMSU coach T.J. Buchholz, whose team scored 11 times in its previous four matches. "That's a testament to a great defensive performance, especially by that back line."
Each team created a couple of chances in the final 10 minutes but failed to score. MSU junior Nicole Matsumoto made a clean tackle inside the box to wipe away one SMSU opportunity.
"That was a great tackle," Spain said. "They've been most dangerous on that left wing position in their last (four) games and I thought Matsumoto locked it down pretty good."
Fisher continued to pester the Mustangs in the second half, twice colliding with Smith in pursuit of the ball. Each time it took Fisher a little longer to rise to her feet, but that won't deter her from crashing into the box again.
"Any fight for the ball is a good one," Fisher said. "They were a physical team and she was a good goalkeeper and you have to take some knocks in the game, I guess. We got a penalty from it and a goal so I can't complain."
The Beavers outshot SMSU 14-8 and tallied nine shots on goal to SMSU's four.
MSU plays at Upper Iowa University (5-1, 2-1) at 11 a.m. Saturday.