Concordia-St. Paul (Minn.) entered Saturday's match against Minot State University ahead of the Beavers in the conference standings, but MSU coach Jason Spain said it was a match his team should win.
The Beavers played like it, creating more scoring opportunities and ultimately leaving Herb Parker Stadium with a 2-1 victory.
MSU (6-2-1, 4-2 Northern Sun) has an opportunity for a signature win at 1 p.m. today against Minnesota State University-Mankato. The Mavericks (7-1-1, 6-0) are ranked No. 6 in the nation and No. 1 in the Central Region.
Minot State University junior Michelle Dills competes for the ball with Concordia-St. Paul’s Kate Fox during the Beavers’ 2-1 win Saturday at Herb Parker Stadium.
"These are the games you win," Spain said of Saturday's match. "If you're a playoff team, you beat everyone you're supposed to, period. ... Mankato, that's gravy, we go out there and we swing for the fences and whatever happens, happens. But you have to win the Concordia game. This weekend we got the one we had to have."
MSU, typically a second-half scoring team, got on the board just two minutes, 11 seconds into the game. Junior forward Jamie Council struck a left-footed free kick from just outside the 18-yard box and bent the ball into the lower right corner of the net.
The Golden Bears (4-4-1, 3-2-1) answered with a goal eight minutes later. The ball squirted loose in the box and CSP's Jess Bianchi blasted it top shelf past MSU senior goalkeeper Marie Torres.
MSU sophomore forward Zoe Fisher scored the game's final goal about seven minutes before halftime on a shot from 20 yards out.
"They were (attacking) very direct and we couldn't cope with that," CSP coach Steve Bellis said. "We should've coped with it much better. In the second half, we were better. We created four or five good chances, set them up and didn't take them."
Torres had to make just two saves as MSU controlled the midfield and put the Golden Bears on the defensive. The Beavers outshot CSP 18-6 and had 10 shots on goal compared to three for CSP.
MSU had several opportunities to score in the second half, but didn't find the net. Fisher and junior Jamie MacFarlane routinely got around or behind the Golden Bear defense. MacFarlane had two open shots sail over the crossbar in a three-minute span.
"They were just making good runs and we were finding them," MSU senior midfielder Tara McPartland said. "We were working together as a team and we were finding feet. We connected well today so we looked good up top."
Spain said he was happy with the way his team defended against CSP, who proved dangerous on set pieces. Golden Bears junior Chloe Moore repeatedly launched throw-ins from about 30 yards away into the 18-yard box.
"They're just so good on the throws and corners, I was happy to get away with only one (goal) allowed," Spain said. "I'm a little frustrated that we only scored two, but I'm happy that we got away with one allowed."
Mankato will be the Beavers' second nationally ranked opponent this season. On Sept. 8, the Beavers tied then-No. 7 Central Missouri, who beat Mankato 2-1 earlier this month.