Top seeded MSU knocked out of NSIC Tournament

Garrick Hodge/MDN Minot State’s Ashley Hunter (4) fires a shot during the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference women’s soccer tournament on Friday at Herb Parker Stadium in Minot. Augustana won the contest 2-1 in double overtime.

With penalties on everybody’s mind as double overtime wound down, Augustana sophomore Rebecca Gasper rose out of the crowd and headed home a corner kick.

The Vikings stormed the field in celebration and left the Minot State women’s soccer team wondering what just happened as they made the long trek back to its bench with their heads hanging low.

No. 4-seeded Augustana (14-4-2) upset No. 1 Minot State (16-2-1), the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference regular season champions, in the semifinals of the NSIC Tournament, 2-1, Friday evening in double overtime at Herb Parker Stadium.

Augustana coach Brandon Barkus was quick to give plenty of praise to MSU coach Jason Spain and the Beavers following the hard fought road victory.

“It was really just us catching a break and them not getting a break,” Augustana coach Brandon Barkus. “I’m really going to enjoy this, but I do have to reiterate that coach Spain did a nice job with this team and has done a nice job all year. I’m pleased that we were able to get a result today.”

Last season, Augustana also defeated Minot State in the semifinals of the conference tournament, 2-1, with only two shots on goal and the game-winning goal coming in the 87th minute.

Minot State pushed aside that heartbreaker with a 3-0 victory against Augustana earlier this season on Sept. 17. But the Vikings avenged that loss by delivering another devastating defeat in the postseason.

“Unfortunate to lose that way,” Spain said. “When just didn’t get enough goals in there. We probably should have won that in regulation, should have definitely won it in the first overtime and the first part of the second overtime, we just hammered them.”

After a first 45 minutes that looked destined to end in scoreless draw going into halftime, Augustana pulled a goal out of nowhere with a minute and 32 seconds left to spare in the first half.

Freshman Grace Behm collected the ball in the midfield and found a pocket of space in between two MSU defenders. The shot crept past goalkeeper Erin Rafferty, collided off the inside of the right goal post and rolled back across the goal and in to give Augustana a 1-0 lead.

Pouring on the pressure to even the score in the second half, Minot State found the equalizer with 21 minutes left before the end of regulation. A cross in from sophomore defender Ashley Franco picked out senior forward Chloe Melton running across the frame of the goal, 1-1.

After being outshot 9-7 in the first half, the Beavers turned things around to have an 18-11 advantage in shots after 90 minutes.

The first overtime period was all Minot State, but they couldn’t finish the game. A Kelli Creese free kick was saved off the crossbar and a pair of corner kicks were begging to be finished, but were cleared out by Augustana in the last possible moments.

MSU had nine shots across both overtime periods, but it was the Gasper header off a corner from Emily Jacobson that sealed Augustana’s spot in the NSIC Tournament championship game in the 106th minute.

It was the only shot Augustana had in overtime.

“We are a better team than them, but it is what it is,” Spain said.

The NSIC Tournament championship game between Augustana and No. 2-seeded Minnesota State Mankato (15-3-2) will be held at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Herb Parker Stadium.

Minot State now awaits its NCAA Tournament fate. The Beavers came into the NSIC Tournament as the No. 3 ranked team in the region. The top six teams in the region advance to the national tournament.

The winner of the NSIC Tournament gets an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s only our second loss of the season,” Creese said. “I don’t think we want to have this feeling again. If we do get that bid (to the NCAA Tournament), we are not going to lose.”

Alex Eisen covers Minot High School, Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.