With the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference regular season championship plaque in hand and a grin across his face, Minot State women’s soccer coach Jason Spain addressed the media Sunday afternoon following a 1-0 Beavers win over Northern State.
The victory wrapped up an undefeated season in the NSIC for the No. 11 nationally ranked Beavers.
“It means a lot, this is nice,” Spain said. “It’s been a good year.”
In front of family and friends on Senior Day, senior forward Chloe Melton scored the lone goal for Minot State (15-1-1, 14-0-1 NSIC) and senior goalkeeper Leila Torres made two saves to record the shutout.
Torres, who normally splits time with redshirt freshman keeper Erin Rafferty, is 5-0 on the season and has put up back-to-back shutout wins for the Beavers in the last two games.
“Our defense works so hard, so it’s always nice to walk away with a shutout,” Torres said. “It was a tight game today and you never know what’s going to happen, but I have to credit my defenders because Erin (Rafferty) and I wouldn’t have so many shutouts if it wasn’t for them.”
A yellow card to Northern State midfielder Darian Leschewski in the 15th minute set up the free kick that led to Melton’s ninth goal of the season. The ball was sent into senior Ninfa Ramirez, who was able to twist her body around to get a shot off from the edge of the penalty box.
Her effort was blocked by a defender, but Melton was there to clean up the rebound.
“It was one of those moments where the goal is wide open and all you got to do is get that tap-in, so it was a bit frantic,” Melton said. “As soon as it hit the back of the net, it was the best feeling ever.”
The game-winning goal was made even more special with Melton, a native of Fleet, England, having her family in attendance.
“That’s the main reason it felt so amazing, four years later they’re back here again and getting to see me play,” Melton said. “Scoring in front of them is the most amazing thing in the world, so I’m really thankful that it happened.”
Tight marking and physical play limited the number of chances for both teams. MSU outshot Northern State 19-9 and 8-2 on shots on target.
It was the third 1-0 win for the Beavers this season and the sixth game they have won by a one-goal margin.
MSU’s defense limited senior Northern State forward Anna Bondy, second in the NSIC in goals (15) behind Ramirez (18), to one shot on target and just two shots in total.
“They’re a solid team,” Spain said. “They had won five out of their last six (games) and were fighting to get in. It was a grind. We could of had a couple of extra ones and, on the flip side, I think we dodged a bullet or two too.”
Northern State (9-8, 7-8 NSIC) was on the bubble to make the NSIC Tournament going into the contest against Minot State. Despite the defeat, the Wolves found out after the game that they still made the conference tournament as the No. 7 seed.
NSU coach Steve Kehm was proud of his team’s effort on the road.
“I thought we played well,” Kehm said. “They are obviously a real quality team and they are the conference champions for a reason. Hats off to them.
“You’re never happy when you don’t get a result, but I was happy with the way they fought.”
The No. 1 seed Beavers have home field advantage throughout the single-elimination NSIC Tournament, which begins on Wednesday. Minot State will welcome No. 8 seed Upper Iowa (8-9, 7-8 NSIC) back to Herb Parker Stadium at 5 p.m. MSU beat Upper Iowa, 3-0, at home on Oct. 16.
Alex Eisen covers Minot High School, Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.