Entering its eighth season as a varsity soccer program, the Brainerd High School boys' team is hoping to experience a breakthrough season like the Warrior girls enjoyed last fall.
In 2003, the girls' team compiled a program-best 13-5 record and won the program's first section quarterfinal playoff game.
The boys' program has yet to have a winning season. It came close in 2000 (8-9-1) and last season (8-9-0).
At a minimum, Devine wants a .500 season. He would prefer a 10-6 or 12-4 record.
"This is the most optimistic I've been going into a year," Devine said. "I don't see anyone on our schedule that we're going to try to just survive. Instead, I see every game as a fierce competition.
31-at Fergus Falls 5 p.m.
2-at Willmar 5 p.m.
9-LITTLE FALLS 5 p.m.
13-at St. Cloud Apollo 7 p.m.
16-ST. CLOUD TECH 5 p.m.
18-BEMIDJI 11 a.m.
20-at Sartell 5 p.m.
21-ALEXANDRIA 5 p.m.
23-WILLMAR 5 p.m.
28-at Little Falls 5 p.m.
30-ST. CLOUD APOLLO 5 p.m.
2-at Detroit Lakes 11 a.m.
5-at St. Cloud Tech 5 p.m.
7-SARTELL 5 p.m.
9-at Bemidji 11 a.m.
12-at Alexandria 7 p.m.
Warrior boys' soccer
Head coach -- David Devine, ninth season (eighth at Brainerd, one at Northfield).
Brainerd record -- 33-75-8 (.306)
2003 finish -- 5-7-0 in CLC, 8-9-0 overall.
Returning seniors -- Aaron Thelen, Tom Andrew, Jacob Belanger, Errol Belanger, Travis Rose.
Assistant coaches -- Toby Kvalevog, Cahil Collins.
"There have been some fear factors against some programs. The only team we haven't beaten on our schedule, in the history of our program, is Fergus Falls, after we picked up a win against Apollo last year and two years ago we upset Tech."
The Warriors must develop offensively but appear to be solid in goal and on defense.
Leading scorer Jesse Bates, who had 12 goals and 13 total points, has graduated. Brainerd returns five players who combined for eight goals.
"Last year was one of our lower goal outputs (22)," Devine said. "In our previous seven years we only had two years with less. Offense will be a concern, who's going to put the ball in the net."
Devine hopes senior captain Aaron Thelen can bury the ball in the net. But Thelen, who had two goals and three total points last season, had double knee surgery this summer.
"Aaron definitely has the attitude," Devine said. "We just need to see if he develops that scorer's touch, that nose for the goal. We haven't had a player like that since maybe Jason Roberts' junior year, a forward who gets those lucky bounces, gets the flick, gets the deflection."
Devine also hopes seniors Matt Posch (2 goals, 3 points) and Travis Rose and juniors Angelo Polcaro (2-4) and Nick Mangan (1-2) provide offensive firepower.
"Offensively, these guys need to click," Devine said. "I think we will need a lucky bounce or two."
In goal, the Warriors should be solid with junior Josiah Collins. He played every game last season, during which Brainerd allowed an average of 2.47 goals per game.
"I'm excited for him as he develops physically and matures mentally to be tougher and more confident," Devine said of Collins. "His skills are very good. I'm not worried about that. He has the confidence now of a junior rather than a sophomore."
Sophomore James Mix, an all-conference selection, returns to anchor the defense, possibly as a sweeper.
"James came in to practice seemingly pretty fit and ready to go," Devine said. "I know him and some other fellas played a lot of soccer over the summer."
Others Devine hopes will make Brainerd formidable on defense are seniors Jacob and Errol Belanger and sophomores Chris Comstock and Jake Beckerleg.
"Defensively, I feel we should be able to shut some teams down, challenge them for some shutouts," he said.
At midfield, Devine believes the Warriors are solid with senior Tom Andrew, who had a goal and assist last season.
"Tom came out of the woodwork last year in his first year playing for us, and here he is voted captain by his teammates," Devine said.
Errol Belanger is likely in the running for another midfield position along with junior Nick Nathan, Rose and Mangan.
For the first time the program will have no eighth-graders on the varsity roster as Brainerd offers a junior high program. The Warriors had about a half-dozen eighth-graders on the varsity last fall.
Seniors -- Aaron Thelen, (F), Tom Andrew (M), Jacob Belanger (D), Errol Belanger (M), Travis Rose (M), Matt Posch (F)
Juniors -- Josiah Collins (G), James Mix (D), Chris Comstock (D), Morgan Impola (M), Nick Mangan (M), Angelo Polcaro (F)
Sophomore -- Jake Beckerleg (D)
Additional varsity candidates
Seniors -- Jay Rakowski (D), Erik Stoneberg (D), Tim Halverson (G)
Junior -- Tim Lange (M)
Sophomore -- Josh Johnson (F)
Mike Bialka can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5861.
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