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‘Rare air’: Norton making her mark as BSU soccer’s all-time leading scorer

BSU's Rachael Norton (7) navigates around Wayne State's Natalie Rech (21) in October 2017 at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Pioneer file photo)1 / 2
BSU senior Rachael Norton (7) fires the ball toward the Michigan Tech net on Sept. 8 at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey | Bemidji Pioneer)2 / 2

BEMIDJI -- There’s a new name at the top of the Bemidji State soccer program’s all-time scoring list.

That record belongs to Rachael Norton, and she owns (and is close to breaking) many other statistical records for the Beavers.

“It’s pretty surprising,” Norton said. “I remember when I was a freshmen I was looking at the statistics and I was like, ‘That’s a lot of goals.’ It seems pretty impossible.”

A 52nd minute goal in last Friday’s 3-0 win at Minot State moved Norton into a tie with Ashlee Ellefsen (2007-10) for Bemidji State’s all-time scoring lead with 104 points, while surpassing Ellefsen to break the career goalscoring record with her 41st. An assist 16 minutes later gave Norton the sole lead among BSU’s all-time scorers with 105 points.

“To be honest, I didn’t even know I broke it until the second I broke it,” Norton said of eclipsing the goals record. “I had no idea I was even close until (goalkeeper Anna) Fobbe reminded me.”

Norton’s career goal haul is up to 42 after scoring in the team’s latest victory Sunday, a 3-1 win at University of Mary. Her 13 goals and 31 points on the season lead the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and rank fourth in NCAA Division II.

“She has just an uncanny ability to get into the right spaces,” said head coach Jim Stone. “Some of the goals she’s scored this year, they’re goals that you couldn’t teach. When you’re around someone like that, it’s rare air, and it’s pretty fun to be around.”

The Mounds View native is within reach of several other records, including single-season goals and points. She’s chasing Katie Meinhardt’s 2004 marks of 17 goals and 38 points in those categories, though Norton matched Meinhardt with her 38 points last season en route to winning NSIC Offensive Player of the Year.

“Every year she’s reached a new level,” said Stone, “and I think that says a lot about her character and how much passion she has for the game and her desire to be successful, and also to help us be successful as a team.”

The record breaking is not limited to just Norton.

The unbeaten Beavers are in the midst of a program-record 12-match winning streak that dates to the start of the season.

“I think when she’s performed at a high level, it’s in some ways pulled us up with her, too,” Stone said. “She’s a big reason why we’re having success. Just like every other person who puts into the team and pushes us forward.”

Beavers attempt to surpass 2017 success

The No. 5 Beavers have climbed the national rankings all season, reaching new heights this week by climbing into the top five for the first time in program history. At 12-0-0, BSU is one of only seven unbeaten teams in NCAA Division II and one of three with 12 wins.

The national ranking has taken the team a little by surprise.

“We sit around and we laugh about it,” Norton said. “We’re like, ‘Are we really that good? Are we really fifth in the nation?’ Just because it seems so weird that you can be ranked nationally and just at a small school. Like you don’t even know who’s ahead of you, you don’t even know how good they are.”

BSU is on track to return to the NCAA Tournament for the second time ever after making their debut in 2017. Last year, the Beavers went unbeaten in the regular season at 14-0-3 before falling twice to Augustana in the NSIC semifinals and the NCAA Central Regional.

The team has returned virtually the same form as last year, if not better.

Along with Fobbe in goal, the defense has conceded only six goals through 12 games for a 0.50 goals against average, nearly identical to the program’s all-time best 0.48 mark set last year.

“Fobbe is an amazing goalie, so she helps out a ton obviously,” said junior defender Tia Neuharth. “And then (freshman defender) Megan Dahl has stepped up and is probably one of the best people I’ve ever played with. (Junior defender Emily) Kos is doing amazing as always. She’s always done fantastic since freshman year. And then (junior defender Sidney Bethke) has been having a wonderful season so far as well.”

Neuharth had wondered prior to this season how BSU could possibly top the program’s historic 2017. She knows now the Beavers want to one-up the squad of a year ago.

“Now that we’re here and we’re playing, I think we only want the best for our team,” Neuharth said. “We only want to do better than we did last year.”

The Beavers, ranked No. 1 in the NCAA DII Central Region, return to Chet Anderson Stadium this weekend for games against Concordia-St. Paul (Central Region No. 8) at 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12, and Minnesota State (Central Region No. 3) at 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14.

Austin Monteith

Austin Monteith is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He is an Illinois native and a Butler University graduate. Follow him on Twitter @amonteith92.

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