Bemidji junior goalkeeper Ali Beard made big saves throughout the Class 1A soccer quarterfinal game, but Mahtomedi's pressure eventually proved too much en route to 3-0 victory Wednesday in Prior Lake.
Zephyrs midfielder Sydney Panek buried a 20-yard shot with 29.1 seconds left in the opening half to give No. 3 seed Mahtomedi (15-3-2) a 1-0 lead.
"I had just had so much adrenaline built up," said Panek, a sophomore, referring to what she called her longest shot of the year. "As I watched it go in, I was like 'that was surreal.' "
Mahtomedi had other scoring chances in the half, but the Lumberjacks' defenders broke up plays and cleared the ball often. Beard, who had 14 saves, credited her back line of Jacie Lalli, Katie Alto, Sydney Butler and Jenna Jones for her success.
"I'm so lucky to have the back line that I do," Beard said. "They're just great defenders all around."
The Zephyrs continued to control possession in the second half. After a couple close misses, they extended the lead to 2-0 when sophomore Audrey Sexson found senior forward Abby Shultz for a goal.
Sexson later set up the game's final goal on a corner kick to junior forward Sonia Meyer, who headed it in.
"I try to find back post," said Meyer, who considers heading her strength. "Usually they all crash or defend the middle."
For unseeded Bemidji (14-6), this was the second state tournament appearance in program history.
North Branch 2, Mankato West 1: North Branch put last year's 7-1 state quarterfinal loss against Mankato West in the rearview mirror at Prior Lake.
"We talked about it a lot. We knew that we could do it," North Branch junior attacker Mercedey Harper said. "This is a new team, and we did it."
Harper scored twice for unseeded North Branch (16-3-1) in the second half the Vikings upset of No. 2 seed and the previously unbeaten Scarlets (17-1-3). Mankato West tried desperately for a goal in the final minutes but came up empty.
Scarlets junior forward Ahsley Gustavson set her team up well in the first half with a goal assisted by senior forward McKenna Buisman. They sustained the lead for the final 26:41 of the half and about the first eight minutes of the second half.
Harper then evened things up with a goal with 32:43 left in the game. Senior midfielder Savannah Linkert assisted on the goal.
North Branch grabbed the lead when Harper drew a penalty kick. She made her second penalty kick of the season for the winning score.