By the time the dust settles on Kelly Rosenthal's Brainerd Warrior soccer career she may be considered the best ever.
Rosenthal may be an extraordinary soccer player but she didn't get there by accident. Rather, she spent her summers on the soccer field sweating and working instead of lounging on a nearby lake.
And, for the past four years Rosenthal has been a member of Minnesota's 1991 U.S. Olympic Development Program soccer team (players can only be born in 1991).
Rosenthal, who will be a junior this fall, helped Team Minnesota win the Region II championship July 11-13 at DeKalb, Ill., and earn a spot in the Final Four National Championship in Texas in March 2008.
From her left and center forward position Rosenthal scored four of the team's 11 goals.
Brainerd soccer player Kelly Rosenthal recently helped Minnesota's U.S. Olympic Development Program soccer team to the Region II championship and a berth in the Final Four National Championship next March. Brainerd Dispatch/Troy Gunderson» Purchase reprints of this photo.
"We played a three-up front," Rosenthal said of the Minnesota offense. "The other two forwards I worked with were really good. We worked well together and we got a bunch of easy goals. It wasn't that hard for any of us to get goals."
The team was in danger of not even making it to the tournament as its bus broke down in Hudson, Wis. Once it arrived, Minnesota beat Iowa 2-1, followed with a 3-2 victory over Ohio North and a 3-2 win over Indiana.
In the semifinals Minnesota blanked Ohio South 2-0, which set up a showdown against defending champion Michigan for the title.
Michigan led for most of the final game before Minnesota tied it 1-1 and sent it to a shootout. Again, Michigan led the shootout until Minnesota's goalie was able to stop two Michigan tries and eventually hold on for the win in dramatic fashion.
"We've done OK in the past but we've never done this well," said Rosenthal. "We were the underdogs in that game. The Michigan team gets more practices in and they spend more time together. They're also very fast and aggressive and work well together. We just played better this time."
Rosenthal first tried out for ODP four years ago and made the team. Each spring she heads to Blaine for tryouts and every year she's made it. The program starts shortly after school ends and players meet every Sunday for practices leading up to the regional tournament in mid-July.
The team is coached by University of Minnesota women's head coach Kate Cortis and College of St. Benedict women's coach Kate McNeil. Rosenthal said both coaches create a fun atmosphere while at the same time giving them top-notch instruction.
"The coaches are really fun to be around, they're probably my favorite coaches so far," she said. "Cortis is just really fun and both her and McNeil really know what they're talking about with soccer."
During the high school season Rosenthal's talent and speed stand head and shoulders above most other players. But on the Minnesota ODP team, she's just one of many fast and talented players so she knows she has to develop other parts of her game.
"It's fun to play with that much talent around you, it's like a different game," said Rosenthal. "It's like playing two-touch out there and the game is a lot faster. I learned that I can't just beat people with my speed, that I have to use moves too.
"You realize how much more you have to learn because there's a lot of good girls out there. You always have to keep working because there's always someone better than you out there."
Rosenthal plans to play for the Iowa Wings, a premier club, as a guest player in early August where there will be a number of college coaches there watching players.
"The U of M coach is one of our coaches and there are a lot of other coaches at the tournaments," said Rosenthal. "I'm trying to guest play on some teams yet this summer so that will give me some exposure as well. I haven't really looked seriously at college but I really like the coaches at the U."
Besides playing for the Minnesota ODP team Rosenthal also played in four tournaments with her Lakes Area Youth Soccer Association team.
And, with many key players returning to the Warriors, who went to the Class 2A state tournament for the first time last fall, and games against metro powers Wayzata and Eagan slated this fall, Rosenthal is excited for this season.
"I'm looking forward to playing teams like Wayzata and Eagan because that will help get us ready for the state tournament," Rosenthal said. "I'm excited for this year because we pretty much have the same team coming back and hopefully we'll go down to state again."
TROY GUNDERSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5865.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.