Loaded with fond memories, Bemidji State's veterans hope to make more in last playoff run

Nov. 5—Halle Peterson, Maggie Cade and Madisanne Dahl have 14 years of combined experience playing for the Bemidji State women's soccer team.

It's a trio that's won 57 games and the program's first NSIC Tournament and Central Region Tournament championships. They've been part of the best home team in program history in 2021, finishing with a mark of 12-1-0. They were on one of three Bemidji State teams to finish with an unbeaten NSIC record that same year at 13-0-2.

On Oct. 22, before the Beavers kicked off a home game against Wayne State, Peterson, Cade and Dahl were honored with a Senior Day celebration. Once the 2023 season is over, it will mark the end of three impactful careers that helped BSU reach its grandest heights while also leading the next wave of players into a promising future.

"I've been with Halle for the last five years," Cade said. "We came in together and grew together. I've been with (Dahl) for the last four years, so it was really special to have that day with them because there weren't that many of us. It was all about us. It was awesome, and I love both of them. It's fun to see what we've all accomplished, and I'm excited to see what they do after Beaver soccer."

Cade is a fifth-year midfielder from Lakeville who hasn't missed a start in two years. She rarely comes off the field in big games. Bemidji State head coach Jim Stone called her a leader by example, one who facilitated plays during the green and white's highest moments.

"She's the one that everyone wants to emulate," Stone continued. "She's the player that you can point to and say, 'Hey, do what she does.' You know the rest of the team is going to be in a good place if they follow that lead."

Stone pointed towards Dahl as the team's emotional guidance. The senior out of Waddell, Ariz., played substitute minutes in her first two seasons with the Beavers but did not appear in any game in 2022. Since then, she's jumped at the chance to play more in her final season, finding time on the pitch in all 18 games off the bench on BSU's backline.

"I think all student-athletes put a lot of weight into how much they play," Dahl said. "In past years, whether I was injured or just not playing as much, that hasn't made a huge difference because I know that everybody on the team makes an impact. That's how I see it. Being able to play is awesome, especially for my senior year. It's great to have the trust of my teammates and coaches, and I love making a difference on the field."

Peterson is the most accomplished of the soon-to-be graduates. The fifth-year out of Stillwater has collected two United Soccer Coaches All-Region Team selections and a handful of NSIC honors. She's revered as one of the best players in the conference. Like Cade, she also hasn't missed a start in two seasons and rarely comes off the field.

Senior Day was a full-circle experience for Peterson. She watched the celebratory pregame several times before having the spotlight on her.

"It was pretty cool," Peterson said. "It would've been nice to come out with a win, of course, but it was really fun. When you go through it every year, you never really imagine yourself being a senior on Senior Day. So it was special to spend it with those two."

The void of experience has been an ongoing theme for Bemidji State and its 12 true freshmen. Through the highs and lows of the 2023 season, the Beavers leaned on their more experienced group whenever possible.

However, finding the exemplary leadership mix was more of a process than Peterson, Cade, and Dahl anticipated. After having the abundance of veterans with the leadership qualities graduate from 2022's historic team, it left the Beaver captains with a challenge to carve their own lane.

"We've had to assume a lot of leadership, especially because Halle is the only returning captain that's had that experience for us," Cade said. "We've had to figure out how we work together with Maria Stocke as the junior leader. We had to find out what we bring to the team and who's going to help motivate the team. You have those different kinds of leaders. You have to play off of each other in those different leadership styles to help the team thrive."

Stone called Peterson the vocal leader of his captain group. She's taken bits and pieces from the players who came before her to mold her presence on the team.

"I think it definitely helped having those older girls at a younger age," Peterson said. "I got to learn and develop leadership from them, especially last year. Being a younger captain, I learned a lot from them. This year, finding new leaders throughout the team and having those younger girls step up has definitely helped us."

This is when that leadership aspect becomes vital to a team's success. BSU broke out of its slump with a 1-0 win over Minnesota Duluth on Thursday night, ending a five-match winless streak to end the regular season. Despite their struggles, the Beavers will get a home game against Augustana in the first round of the NSIC Tournament.

"There's been a feeling-out process for them," Stone said of his captains. "I think the longer the season has gone, the more they've grabbed the reins and gone on with it. I think they're at a place now where they're comfortable in their own skin in how they want to lead. ... I think they're capable, and they've learned a lot about how they want to lead in comparison to past leadership. It's going to be exciting to see how they implement that."

The Beavers are on the outside looking in at the Central Region Rankings before the NSIC Tournament begins, which means they will likely have to create their own luck if they want to defend their title.

But whenever that final collegiate game comes for Peterson, Cade and Dahl, they will look back on their time in Bemidji as life-altering in the best ways.

"I'm from Arizona, so coming to Bemidji is definitely a change," Dahl said. "I think that this team has really grounded me, and this place is so special. I committed here because I knew this team was a family. Any other place I visited, I didn't really see that the same way I saw it here. That's what lived up to the expectations in my last four years here. A lot of lessons were learned here, good and bad. Bemidji State made me who I am today."

Cade didn't have to travel as far to get to Bemidji but will leave with a similar takeaway. It's the sense of community that kept her coming back.

"I've loved my five years here," Cade said. "Not only is the team a family, but I feel like I've made even more friends on campus and in the community. People know who you are, especially when you play a sport, and you're succeeding. I now have neighbors that know me, and I love talking to them. I wouldn't have known them if I hadn't come here and played soccer. I just feel like I found another community I can feel comfortable in."

For all of the milestones Peterson is proud to have been a part of, she hopes there are more left in the tank.

"I've been able to be part of a lot of firsts for this program, and I think that's really cool," Peterson said. "Last year, we won our first (NSIC) Tournament. We've gone the furthest of any team in the NCAA Tournament. Being able to be a part of that history is really cool, and I'll always remember that."