BAXTER — Tuesday’s high temperature topped out at 85 degrees and Emily Beltran had hot feet.
The senior forward scored a hat trick and Brainerd’s defense helped keeper Heather Campbell pitch a shutout in the Warriors’ 5-0 Central Lakes Conference win over the Alexandria Cardinals at Southdale Field.
Beltran has four goals and five points in Brainerd’s first two games. The Warriors have started the season 2-0 despite missing one of the team’s top forwards, junior Hannah Lundstrom, who’s out with an injury.
“I definitely miss playing with Hannah but we’ve definitely got some younger girls coming up too, like Ally Smith, she’s definitely stepping up and playing as an eighth-grader and is doing really well,” Beltran said. “Then we have Jenny (Hendrickson) playing forward with me and Maddie Ellingson. They’re all stepping up and filling where we’re missing.”
The Warriors will have an even more potent offense when Lundstrom returns but Lacerte said the offense is already dynamic.
“(Lundstrom) adds speed to it and experience,” he added, “so in addition to that we’re going to stack the offense even more so I can pull one player and put in another without question.”
Beltran put the Warriors ahead in the first 2-plus minutes, taking a pass from Ally Smith, pirouetting 180 degrees and booting the ball past Cardinals keeper Sarah Bruzek.
“I got the ball up top,” Beltran said. “(Lacerte) was telling me to shoot and I just took the shot.”
Three-plus minutes later, Beltran hit the crossbar and Emma Whiteman almost knocked the rebound in.
Beltran’s second goal came in the 58th minute of the second as her shot bounced off the keeper’s hands.
“I saw two girls on either side so I just tried to go between them, and the goalie kind of bobbled it,” Beltran said.
She completed her hat trick in the 70th minute on the second of Ally Smith’s two assists.
“Ally got it to me and thankfully the other girl bobbled it in the middle and I kind of one-touched it in there,” Beltran said.
Ellingson gave Brainerd a 2-0 edge in the first with a high blast over the keeper’s fingertips. Maddie Waters put the Warriors up by three with a laser into the left corner at 27:38 of the first.
The loss was Alexandria’s first after beating Detroit Lakes and Willmar.
“I think the girls continue to improve each game, that’s our objective,” Lacerte said. “We look at our record as 0-0 every time we come into (a game). At halftime it’s a 0-0 score regardless of what we’re winning by. We treat every minute like it’s the last.”
Campbell stopped all nine shots she faced and had to make a few difficult saves in the second to preserve the shutout.
“Heather’s doing fantastic,” Lacerte said. “She’s coming off a bad back in the summer, and she’s really pushed herself. She’s improving every game.”
Alexandria 0 0 — 0
Brainerd 3 2 — 5
First half: Brd-Emily Beltran (Ally Smith) 2:11; Brd-Maddie Ellingson (Jenny Hendrickson) 5:50; Brd-Maddie Waters 27:38
Second half: Brd-Beltran 58:27; Brd-Beltran (Ally Smith) 70:14
Shots on goal: A 9, Brd 13
Goalkeepers: A-Sarah Bruzek (8 saves); Brd Heather Campbell (9 saves).
MIKE BIALKA, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.