BAXTER - When Brainerd girls' soccer coach Steve Kimble added Eagan of the Lake Conference and Wayzata of the Classic Lake Conference to his team's schedule he knew what the Warriors were getting themselves into.
The Warriors, a state tournament team in 2006, played Eagan, ranked eighth in the Class 2A preseason poll, to a standstill (1-1) in the first half Thursday. That was before two goals late in the second half lifted the Wildcats to a closely contested 3-1 victory at Southdale Field.
"This is exactly what we asked for, and we knew it," Kimble said. "We wanted to dive right into the ocean and that's exactly what we got. What a great team.
Brainerd's Britta Nelson moved past an Eagan defender Thursday in Baxter.
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"I would say we had a couple missed chances and we played right with them so we know we're there. This group is so competitive, they always want to finish on top. They will be disappointed but we won't hang our heads for long."
Brainerd won't have the luxury of relaxing. On Saturday it travels to No. 4 Wayzata.
"I think this helps us a lot because some of the teams we play aren't very good," said Brainerd midfielder Megan Zillmer, who assisted on the Warriors' only goal. "It helps us, definitely, with our (section) seeding.
Eagan 3, BHS 1
The key: Two second-half goals powered the Wildcats past Brainerd
Overall: Brd 0-1
Next: Brainerd at Wayzata 1 p.m. Saturday
"It helps us so much to play a good team. We have another one coming up Saturday that's just as good, so we can't hang our heads. We have to bounce back and be ready to play."
The Warriors needn't hang their heads. They were outshot just 16-14 and didn't let Eagan slip away until scores in the 58th and 59th minute.
Brainerd had its chances, including a penalty kick in the 10th minute by Emily Olson that hit the left post.
Eagan's Katie Ryan scored the eventual game-winner at 58:03. Warriors keeper Erin Olejnicak came out to stop her but Ryan kicked the ball past Olejnicak.
Kellie Fenske scored Brainerds lone goal
The Wildcats' Lauren Bauer, who opened the scoring at 9:53 of the first, scored the game's final goal 79 seconds later, beating Olejnicak to the lower left corner.
"I think that was evident today, that Brainerd can compete with anyone that we see in our conference," Eagan coach Mark Obarski said. "I thought they played really well. I thought (Brainerd's) Kellie Rosenthal up top was very dangerous along with a couple others so it's not like you can watch one.
"We play Elk River Saturday, a section opponent of Brainerd. It will be interesting to see how we fare, but I would put Brainerd way up there."
Kellie Fenske scored the Warriors' only goal, off a corner kick from Zillmer.
"Basically, I just placed it where I'm supposed to, right in the middle, and Kellie was there to finish it up with her stomach," Zillmer said. "She hit it with her stomach, and walked it right in the goal."
Unfortunately, with about 15 minutes left, Fenske aggravated a previous knee injury and had to be helped off the field.
"I was happy to score on a corner kick in the first game," Kimble said. "We work hard on that kind of stuff, and Kellie Fenske puts it in.
"Her story last year is she scores goals in big games but she's been suffering some knee problems. We need her on the field and healthy so hopefully it's not too serious."
Eagan 1 2 3
Brainerd 1 0 - 1
First half: E-Lauren Bauer, 9:53; Brd-Kellie Fenske (Megan Zillmer) 35:06
Second half: E-Katie Ryan, 58:03; E-Bauer, 59:22
Shots on goal: 8-8-16, Brd 8-6-14
Goalkeepers: Eagan, Lisa Berreman (13 saves); Brd, Erin Olejnicak (13 saves)
Mike Bialka can be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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