Ricky Lacerte asked for it and got it.
After his rookie season as head coach of the Brainerd Warriors girls soccer team, Lacerte asked his players for honest feedback about how he did.
He got it.
“I’ve really allowed myself to focus and set specific goals and not digress and be distracted by other issues,” said the second-year coach. “I’m being more patient and listening to my players and using their strengths. That has allowed me to become a better coach. I asked for the feedback and I took what they said to heart and it has motivated me to get better.”
Lacerte is motivated to help the Warriors improve on 5-5-1 Central Lakes Conference and 7-9-1 overall records. He’s confident this year’s group can do that. He’s also confident this group will play as a team.
“This year’s team has chemistry and dedication,” Lacerte said. “We moved our practices from four hours to six hours. We’ve done a lot of team building and team unity things and the veterans have really taken the younger players under their wings and have embraced them. That has allowed us to become a well-rounded soccer team.”
Nowhere on the field is that more evident than at midfield where Lacerte will mix and match 10 different players ranging from seniors to an eighth-grader. Madeline Hastings, Karle Nelson and Molly Palm are the seniors with Jenny Hendrickson, Elizabeth Thurlow, Shayna Vastila, Bailey Hastings, Emma Whiteman, Madeline Waters and Ally Smith the underclassmen.
“Midfield is always one of the most important parts in soccer,” Lacerte said. “They are in charge of switching us from defense and moving us into offense.
“We have a lot of girls who worked hard this offseason to learn the game and the formations. The chemistry with this group is fantastic this year. We are center-field heavy. We do have a lot of seniors, who we’re going to lose to graduation, so I wanted to have a lot of younger girls there to learn what it’s like to play at this level.”
The strength of the team, Lacerte said, will be defense and that will help junior keeper Heather Campbell, who is coming off a summer injury, and her backup, eighth-grader Megan Tschida.
Hannah Hennen, Angela Sausen, Emily Trtanj, Grace Sundberg, Chloe Smith, Holly Smith and Haley Campbell man the D.
“Our defense is going to be fantastic this year,” Lacerte said. “We have a lot of team speed and both veterans and ninth-grade players coming up. We have shown a lot of potential, together with speed and experience. Our defense will be the cornerstone of our team. We will win games because of them.”
But a team needs to score to win and that shouldn’t be a problem as senior Emily Beltran and junior Hannah Lundstrom return with blazing speed.
“Emily is a fantastic dribbler and can find the open spaces,” Lacerte said. “That and her speed make her so dangerous. She controls the ball so well.
“Hannah is all speed. She fills spaces quickly. Those two are a deadly combo.”
Lundstrom will miss the opening part of the season because of injury so freshmen Madelaine Ellingson will be promoted until her return.
“I really hope that we go over .500 this year,” Lacerte said. “I would love to take a shot at the conference title. But our first priority is St. Cloud Tech on Thursday.”
Seniors: Hannah Hennen (defense), Angela Sausen (defense), Emily Beltran (forward), Madeline Hastings (midfield), Holly Smith (defense), Karlie Nelson (midfield), Molly Palm (midfield)
Juniors: Heather Campbell (keeper), Jenny Hendrickson (midfield), Hannah Lundstrom (forward), Shayna Vastila (midfield), Emma Whiteman (midfield), Haley Campbell (defense),
Sophomore: Emily Trtanj (defense), Elizabeth Thurlow (midfield), Bailey Hastings (midfield), Madeline Waters (midfield)
Freshmen: Madelaine Ellingson (forward) Grace Sundberg (defense), Chloe Smith (defense)
Eighth-grader: Megan Tschida (keeper), Ally Smith (midfield)