With little fanfare, Emily Beltran has climbed up the ladder of scoring leaders in the history of the Brainerd Warriors girls soccer program.
A 4-point game against St. Cloud Tech (1 goal, 3 assists) Tuesday gave her 15 goals and seven assists this season, a total that includes two hat tricks. That output boosted her career total to 59 points (42 goals, 17 assists), ranking her second in program history.
Kelly Rosenthal is No. 1 with 127 points, followed by Beltran (59), Jennifer Beilke (56) and Danielle Uphoff (54).
“She’s a player I’ve never seen before, and I’ve seen a lot of soccer players on the East Coast, West Coast and Midwest,” Warriors coach Ricky Lacerte said. “She stands far above and beyond the rest.
“You can mark her with three or four players and that’s not a problem with her. When teams realize that, they get more aggressive and dirty against her. They nip at her ankles, push her from behind. The only way to stop her is to foul her.”
Some players are just natural scorers, but the senior striker, who attends Lake Region Christian School in Baxter, isn’t sure she’s a natural.
“I think I’m just more comfortable with the ball at my feet,” she said. “I like dribbling and I guess the end of that would be shooting.”
Lacerte said just about any player can become a scorer if they’re in the proper position. But, he said, players who can dribble are a cut above the rest.
“Dribbling in soccer is the most exciting part of the game to watch, not scoring,” he said. “Kids who can dribble are the most exciting to watch. Emily can dribble with her left and right foot. That’s not common. Some do it not so well. She can do it just as well with her left as her right.
“She also can shoot as well with her left as her right. Last year, she couldn’t do that. Somewhere between last year and this year she worked hard to improve her left foot.”
Beltran improved her footwork by working on it whenever possible.
“A lot of my free time is spent with a soccer ball at my feet,” she said. “Whenever I was more toward my right foot, I would repeatedly use my left. With practice it gets better.”
One asset scorers like Beltran have is awareness of teammates and of the defenders around them.
“One thing you look for in a player like Emily is not only is she a finisher, she’s a player with a lot of vision,” Lacerte said. “Those players are very versatile. Some players just play striker because that’s all they know, they just want to score goals. Emily can play midfield and forward. She not only scores, she’s unselfish.”
Beltran has continued to score despite the unavailabilty of teammate Hannah Lundstrom, who has battled injuries all season and has played in just one game this fall. The two were a dynamic 1-2 scoring punch in 2011, feeding off of each other.
“I definitely miss her,” Beltran said, “but Ally Smith, Jenny Hendrickson, Maddie Ellingson, all of the mids, have been doing amazing. They’ve been controlling midfield a lot more this year. That gives me more opportunities to get the ball.”
Beltran and her teammates have raced to a 6-0-3 start and are one of the top teams in Section 8-2A with the postseason rapidly approaching. Brainerd has five regular-season games remaining.
“Losing the seniors we had last year we didn’t know what this year would be like,” Beltran said. “We have a lot of young girls, eighth- and ninth-graders and sophomores who came up.
“We’ve worked really well as a team. It’s unexpected the chemistry we have. Probably it was the 6-hour practices at the beginning of the season for the first two weeks. That probably helped.”
Other notable efforts:
• Ali Crochet, cross country, won the girls race at the Pillager Invite.
• Conor Gessell, football, rushed for 165 yards and scored 20 points against Bemidji.
• Luke Boran, football, passed for 123 yards and two TDs against Bemidji.
• Courtney Ryan and Heather Fletcher, volleyball, each had 14 kills against Sartell.
MIKE BIALKA, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.