Zetah-Cornelius, versatile athlete for Bemidji HS Lumberjacks

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Bemidji senior Sage Zetah-Cornelius (22) battles for the ball in the second half against East Grand Forks on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Photo by Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer.)

By Dan Ninham

Sage Zetah-Cornelius is from the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and Bad River Ojibwa tribe. Her native name is Bidwemisekwe. She is a senior at Bemidji High School and competes in varsity soccer and basketball.

Zetah-Cornelius was named the senior captain for soccer and has been a varsity team member since her sophomore year.

The seven grandfathers of the Ojibwe are honesty, humility, truth, wisdom, love, respect, and courage. Zetah-Cornelius said, “This translates into my every day practice by reminding me to stay humble and always work as hard as I can. Becoming a soccer captain has really challenged me to speak up and be courageous. I will always be there to help and support my fellow teammates, whether this means giving tips and wisdom on the soccer field or merely talking about how they are.”

“On the field, although I respect the opposing team, as a defender I try my hardest to prevent them from scoring. Hard work and sportsmanship including honesty and respect are what I value the most when it comes to the field and court and my everyday life,” added Zetah-Cornelius.

“A highlight of my athletic career is becoming a soccer captain,” said Zetah-Cornelius. “I take it very serious and love helping my teammates and taking that leadership role. I take pride in the playing time that I earned and work hard every day for it. I have played every position possible on the soccer field from forward to goalie and found my home at center defense.”

“Last year during sections we were the seventh seed playing second seed Brainerd after just moving up to a higher class,” said Zetah-Cornelius. “As underdogs, we were expected to lose but as a team we wanted the win.”

“I started left center defense that game. We all played our absolute hardest and it paid off. We celebrated our upset win and all embraced each other in an outburst of cheering! We went home that day elated and proud to be advancing in sections,” added Zetah-Cornelius.

Zetah-Cornelius showed her versatility in a recent game when she asked her coaches if she could play offense. When approved she went in and scored two goals.

“Scoring today was merely due to how determined I was to get on the stats sheet,” said Zetah-Cornelius. “As a center defender you don’t get the glory of scoring and the credit for hard work in games. I talked my coach into letting me try it and when they told me to move up, I knew I was scoring!”

Logan Larsen, Bemidji HS head girls soccer coach, said, “Sage has played a massive role on the successes within our 2022 season by being an outstanding center defender, and by being an extremely influential captain.”

“We have conceded very few goals this season, and Sage has played a key role in that,” said Larsen. “We played 10 games so far this season, and with the exception of one game she’s played every single minute of every single game, and often times in a system that only employs three defenders. Our last two games were against bitter rivals Brainerd and East Grand Forks, and both were 1-0 wins; a testament to the strength of our defenders.”

“Sage is also our defensive leader. She’s vocal in a way that both gives guidance to her fellow defenders as well as uplifts them. She creates structure, and celebrates the successes that occur at defense. Those celebrations are absolutely vital, since despite their impact at resulting in wins, they’re never as celebrated in newspapers and in the stands as scored goals are.”

“Sage provides amazing leadership on our back defensive line,” said Kristina Vanwilgen Hammitt, Bemidji HS Girls Soccer Coach. “As our starting center back, she is the core of communication, decision making, and sets the tone for the team’s conscious on the field at game time.”

“She plays with everything on the table: solid emotion, competitiveness, and heart.
“She does this with true respect for the opponent,” added Vanwilgen Hammitt.

“I can honestly say that she is a big reason for our successes this season in close wins,” said Vanwilgen Hammitt.