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Riders make strides

Paulo Perez targeted two improvements when he took over the Grand Forks Red River girls soccer program. The first-year coach wanted to top the Roughriders' win-loss record from a season ago. Then, he wanted to surpass Red River's state finish fro...

Paulo Perez targeted two improvements when he took over the Grand Forks Red River girls soccer program.

The first-year coach wanted to top the Roughriders' win-loss record from a season ago. Then, he wanted to surpass Red River's state finish from 2007.

With one goal accomplished, Perez has his sights set on the second.

The Riders take an improved 9-6-1 team into a North Dakota state quarterfinal matchup against Bismarck Century on Thursday. The East Region's fourth seed, Red River faces the top seed from the West Region in Century at 4 p.m. in Bismarck.

"I'm pretty happy with the whole season," said Perez, a native of Bogota, Columbia. "The first idea was to do better than last year's record and we've done that. Now with the state tournament, we want to do better than last year again."

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Red River's improvement has been steady the past three seasons. In 2006, the Roughriders went 4-11-2 and failed to qualify for the state tournament. But they rebounded with a 7-8-3 record last year and finished sixth at state.

"I think the key has been our spirit," Red River leading scorer Rachel Dallman said. "We've been ready to go and willing to try new things and listen."

Dallman might be the most knowledgeable person in the program to talk about the improvement. She's been around the team as long as anyone. The junior was an all-state selection as a seventh-grader in 2004 and as an eighth-grader in 2005.

This will be Dallman's fourth state tournament appearance. That experience and her playmaking ability are key to Red River's postseason success.

"She's been the leader on the field," Perez said. "She's the one creating plays and supporting teammates. . . . Other teams have had to be concerned with her when she's on the field."

Dallman, Red River's lone selection to this year's all-East Region team, said this year's success can be attributed to teamwork.

"We have a lot of athletic talent and we're all hard workers," said Dallman, who led the team with nine goals and three assists this season. "We take any challenge that comes along. That's our strength."

After Dallman's nine goals, Red River has been led by Alexa Bateman (5 goals), Erin McLeod (5) and Annie Marhula (3).

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The Riders have a tough task at improving on last year's state finish. Bismarck Century has qualified for all 13 sanctioned state tournaments.

"We need to work on controlling the ball and containing players from other teams," Perez said. "We're just going to do our game and see what they offer to us."

Dallman hopes to pass on her state experience.

"I can be a leader for the team," Dallman said. "It's just confidence. I can help the younger girls not be so nervous."

Miller reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1121; (800) 477-6572, ext. 121; or send e-mail to tmiller@gfherald.com .

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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