The Minot State University women's soccer team showed the University of Mary its improved offense Wednesday night - and the Beavers' season is alive because of it.
After being shut out by the Marauders in its first conference match this season, MSU scored two early goals and held on to beat Mary 2-1 in the first round of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament at Herb Parker Stadium.
MSU sophomore forward Zoe Fisher scored an unassisted goal five minutes, 29 seconds into the match to give the fourth-seeded Beavers (14-3-2) a 1-0 lead.
Minot State University senior midfielder Lexy Kidd settles the ball in front of University of Mary senior Michelle Jones during the first round of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament Wednesday at Herb Parker Stadium.
Near the end line on the left side of the goal, Fisher fired a low shot toward the Mary net. Goalkeeper Ashley Akers made the save but the ball deflected back to Fisher, who danced around a lunging Akers and floated a shot into the right side of the net.
MSU coach Jason Spain said it was important to get on the board early, particularly with the Beavers' lack of finishing in a couple of tight matches earlier this season.
"The goal really helped our confidence," Spain said. "When you got those games like the Moorhead game and the (first) Mary game, it's in the back of your mind. Getting an early one helps us out, especially the way we close games."
Less than 15 minutes after the first goal, senior midfielder Tara McPartland headed in a corner kick from Fisher to give MSU a 2-0 advantage.
"We came out on fire and everyone was just pushing so hard the entire time," McPartland said. "We just felt it today."
First-year Marauders coach Sarah McNulty said the Beavers blitzed her fifth-seeded squad early.
"They're a physical team and we weren't really ready to match that right away," she said. "I think that's the difference."
The teams were whistled for a combined 10 fouls after halftime as the intensity picked up.
"The urgency is a lot more for them than in a regular-season game," Spain said. "Lots of flighted balls, lots of collisions - that's just the way it is. I thought our girls were stellar at challenging everything."
Mary pulled within a goal on a solid strike by junior Alex Bachman-Williams in the 61st minute. The Minot High School product pounced on a ball about 20 yards from the net and drilled a low line drive just inside the right post.
"There's not much we could've done about that," Spain said. "Alex, she's quality."
MSU threatened a couple more times, even hitting the crossbar with 2:30 remaining. Mary also took a few more shots, but none that truly challenged Beaver goalkeeper Marie Torres. The senior finished with five saves.
MSU plays top-seeded Minnesota State University-Mankato at 2 p.m. Friday in Mankato. The No. 3-ranked Mavericks (16-1-2) beat MSU 2-0 on Sept. 30.
"They're a really good team but we're excited," McPartland said. "We're ready to play 'em again and see what we can do."
NOTE: MSU sophomore Emilie Rebelo was injured on a collision in the closing seconds of the match and received care from medical personnel before leaving the field. Spain said her ribs were bruised but not broken, and her status for the Mankato match is uncertain. X-rays on Rebelo's sternum were expected to be taken Wednesday night.