BAXTER - The Brainerd Warriors were caught on the wrong side of a numbers game Friday.
The Warrior defense couldn't corral the Stillwater Ponies' stampede of forwards who used a player advantage to register a 4-0 victory at Southdale Fields.
Madison Smith (left) and Annie Olson battled to gain control of the ball during the Brainerd girls' soccer home opener against the Stillwater Ponies. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey » Purchase reprints of this photo.
Stillwater attacked with four players, while Brainerd played its traditional three-player defense.
Stillwater capitalized at 5:55 when Rachel Berns split the defense to hit teammate Alyssa Manor who sped past the pack and flipped a shot over Brainerd keeper Cami Andersen.
Seven minutes later Maureen Stormont snuck past the defense to make it 2-0. The Ponies claimed a 3-0 advantage when Amanda Cartony collected a pass from Ali Maghrak at the 37:33 mark and stuck her shot in the corner.
Stillwater 4, Brainerd 0
Key: Ponies held Brainerd to just two shot attempts
Overall: Brd 0-1, Still 2-0
Next: Brainerd vs. Wayzata at Baxter 1 p.m. Saturday.
"They came down with four and so as we pinched they had a wide coming down and we didn't cover that very well," said Warrior head coach Sara Rojas. "We thought about playing four back defensively, but I wanted to keep them with what they knew. When the offense comes down with four you kind of want to stack that defense. If that's what happens (Saturday) we might change that just to give us some extra backup.
"We adjusted well to that in the second half, but still when they're coming down with four and you have three you get beat."
Brainerd only got beat once in the second half courtesy of Maghrak's goal at 69:36.
Ponies keeper Kenzie Hanzlik collected two saves to register her second shutout of the young season.
For Brainerd, it was a disappointing season opener and coaching debut for Rojas.
"It could have been better," said Rojas. "I think the girls didn't play the game they know how to play. That passing that they've been used to and have been doing so well in practice just wasn't there. Our touches weren't on. We were passing behind or right to and slowing up the progression down the field.
"Once they got scored on, they just got down."
Last season, Brainerd opened the season with a 4-1 loss to Wayzata. Then the Warriors rattled off a 14-2 regular season, collected a Central Lakes Conference championship and advanced to the Section 8-2A final.
That was then, however, and Rojas saw a few things her team needs to improve.
"One thing I noticed was once things start to get down they work as units instead of a team," Rojas said. "We've got to learn to encourage one another even though things aren't going the way we want them to go.
"We need to be prepared mentally to work as a team. Moving the ball and just settling down and doing what they know how to do. You have to be able to settle down and work what they already know how to do."
Stillwater 3 1 - 4
Brainerd 0 0 - 0
First half: 1, Still-Alyssa Manor (Rachel Berns) 5:55; 2, Still-Maureen Stormont (Ali Maghrak) 12:55; 3, Still-Amanda Cartony (Maghrak) 37:33
Second half: Still-Maghrak (Kate Hanzlik) 69:36
Shots on goal: Brd 2, Still 15
Goalkeepers: Brd-Cami Andersen (11 saves); Still-Kenzie Hanzlik (2 saves)
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.
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