For the first time in school history, Minot State will finish on top of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
The No. 11 Minot State women’s soccer team knocked off the University of Mary 6-1 Tuesday night under the lights at Herb Parker Stadium to grab at least a share of the regular season NSIC championship.
The Beavers (13-1-1, 12-0-1 NSIC) are six points clear of second place Minnesota State-Mankato (11-3-2, 10-2-1 NSIC) with two conference games remaining. A tie or a win Friday against Minnesota State Moorhead would give MSU an outright conference title and have homefield advantage throughout the NSIC tournament beginning Nov. 2.
“It was fun and a great day,” MSU coach Jason Spain said. “It was nice to get a big lead and give everyone a little piece of the pie. I saw the alumni trickling out of the stands and onto the field afterwards I have already received about 30 texts from former players across the country.”
Spain played 26 players and six different players scored the goals.
Four minutes into the game, senior midfielder Dalia Tapia put MSU ahead 1-0 by scoring her first goal of the season on a looping distance shot from 30-plus yards that went in off the goalkeeper’s hands.
“I can’t even explain it,” Tapia said. “Any time somebody scores right away the momentum like boasts up our intensity level. And it helps that I have not scored yet in my five years of being here.”
U-Mary keeper Elizabeth Heintzman was able to make a partial save off a Ninfa Ramirez header that was destined for the top right corner in the 16th minute. But, the ball fell right into the path of a charging Chloe Melton, who cleaned up the scraps to put the Beavers up 2-0.
An uncharacteristic turnover for the MSU defense nearly cut its lead in half with five minutes left before halftime. Luckily for the Beavers, U-Mary senior Michelle McGeary missed wide on a one-on-one chance against MSU goalkeeper Erin Rafferty.
Minot State went to the locker room at halftime up 2-0, outshooting the Marauders 7-3. There were 13 fouls in the first half and the physical play didn’t go away in the second half with 13 more fouls.
“It was only that way because we were playing against our rivals in U-Mary,” Ramirez said. “Being able to win the championship here against our rivals is something we wanted, so that’s what we came out to do.”
A pair of quick succession goals in the second half expanded the Beavers lead to 4-0.
First, sophomore Meagan Kawahara gathered a failed clearance attempt at the top of the 18-yard box and buried a precise strike to the upper left corner (60:12).
Then, leading goal scorer Ramirez broke her own single-season MSU goal-scoring record that she set last year with her 17th goal of the season. Ramirez picked up a pass from Ashley Hunter, beat a defender and laced the ball near side off of the post and in (61:11).
“I honestly didn’t think I would have this many,” Ramirez said. “I didn’t even think I would even get to 10 (goals) because I knew they were going to double and triple team me.”
The 59 seconds between goals is the second fastest in program history. They scored consecutive goals from Maritssa Perez and Melton in a span of just 24 seconds in a game against Augustana earlier this season.
MSU wasn’t finished scoring. In the 65th minute, defender Ryann Rafferty netted her third goal of the season on a low driven free kick from Ramirez that she darted in front of and placed in the bottom corner.
U-Mary (3-9-3, 3-8-2 NSIC) freshman Patricia Martin pulled a goal back with 7:49 left in regulation. It was only the seventh goal the Beavers have allowed in 15 games.
“It’s a nice coaching moment,” Spain said. “I don’t stop coaching when we have lead, and neither do my assistants. We made a mistake there, but it showed that we are playing the same kind of game late in the game with all those (substitute) players on the field and they looked good doing it.”
With three minutes and 30 seconds left in the match, MSU sophomore Kayla Howard capped the scoring on an assist from fellow sophomore Taryn Love. The 6-1 margin of victory marked the most goals MSU has scored in a game this season.
“Kayla Howard hasn’t really seen the field much all season,” Ramirez said. “That’s just awesome for everyone to come out and score. We have two more games, so hopefully that pumps them up and gives them confidence.”
The Beavers have a pair of games before the NSIC Tournament. On Friday, they have a road game at conference last-place Minnesota State-Moorhead (3-12, 2-11 NSIC) before finishing the regular season on Sunday with a contest against Northern State (8-7, 6-7 NSIC) at Herb Parker Stadium.
Alex Eisen covers Minot High School, Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.