With the graduation of one of the most prolific scorers in program history the Brainerd Warriors will have to spread out the offense in 2013.
Emily Beltran finished her career as Brainerd’s second-leading scorer. The Warriors will have to take a more defensive approach as they attempt to repeat as Central Lakes Conference champions and contend for the Section 8-2A title.
“Beltran was a unique individual because she was so well-rounded. She was not just a goal-scorer,” Warriors coach Ricky Lacerte said. “When you tally up all our goals in the year, she scored half of them. But that means half had to be scored by other players.
“We’re trying to make sure the players play their positions well and understand that we work as a single unit and not rely solely on an individual player.
“Like I told my parents, we’re not a college team, we’re not a professional club system where I can go and recruit my talent to adjust my field of play.
“You get dealt a specific hand and you have to adjust. Being defensively heavy, and having a great defense, we’re going to play defensively and work on counterattacking.”
Lacerte said his strikers and midfielders will be interchangeable. Senior Jenny Hendrickson is the leading returning scorer and is one of six returning starters. She will be joined up front by senior returnee Shayna Vastila and sophomore Angela Lacy.
Freshman Ally Smith returns at midfield. Other midfield candidates are senior Emma Whiteman, juniors Madeline Waters, Emily Foster and Bailey Hastings and sophomores Maddie Ellingson, Hannah Johnson and Kate Campion.
“It’s been a huge learning curve for us,” Lacerte said. “For any soccer team, midfield is the spine which bridges the defense to the offense and makes the transition. It’s also the hardest part of the field to coach.”
Senior and 2-year starter Haley Campbell returns. She will be joined by senior Ana Ford, junior Emily Trtanj and sophomores Grace Sundberg, Chloe Smith and Kate Smith.
“Haley’s an aggressive center-back, which is what I’m looking for,” Lacerte said. “She clogs up the middle of the field, and she’s very supportive of her younger supporting cast. The rest of her supporting cast are all sophomores with the exception of Ana Ford. Ana is one of those players I can switch out with Haley. She can lead and I don’t have to worry about losing command or authority on the line.
“The rest of our defense is stacked with speed — Chloe Smith, Kate Smith, Sundberg and Trtanj. Chloe, Grace and Kate were among the first girls I ever coached in Brainerd. It was the first time I implemented a flat 4 (defense) in the Lakes Area Youth Soccer Association summer travel season and they mastered it. They have basically continued to perfect it each year so it has come full circle for me. Those girls that I trained I’m now getting a chance to work with at the highest level Brainerd has to offer.”
Senior Heather Campbell will begin her second year as the starter. Freshman Megan Tschida is the backup.
“Heather’s earned back her spot with her experience,” Lacerte said. “She has a little bit more experience than Tschida, but you have to remember that Tschida is only a freshman and will most likely be a varsity goalkeeper starting her sophomore year.”
Brainerd opens Tuesday at Sartell but Lacerte isn’t putting immense expectations on his team, other than winning its opener.
“We would like to win at least one section game and go farther than that,” he said.
Lacerte said the inexperienced players on the roster are pushing the starters.
“The kids on the bench are only a breath away from starting,” he said. “Those kids are fighting for positions. We have some really great talent. We have some kids that have shown unbelievable skill in recent scrimmages.”
Seniors: Heather Campbell (K), Jenny Hendrickson (F), Shayna Vastila (F), Emma Whiteman (MF), Haley Campbell (D), Ana Ford (D)
Juniors: Madeline Waters (MF), Emily Trtanj (D), Bailey Hastings (MF), Emily Foster (MF)
Sophomores: Chloe Smith (D), Madelaine Ellingson (MF), Grace Sundberg (D), Kate Smith (D), Hannah Johnson (MF), Kate Campion (MF), Angela Lacy (F)
Freshman: Ally Smith (MF)
MIKE BIALKA, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.