In Brainerd's first year of varsity girls' soccer the Warriors scored three goals all season.
Fast forward to 2004 and offense isn't nearly the problem it was in 1997. The reason? Brainerd has skilled offensive players like Jennifer Beilke.
In the first two games of the season, the senior captain totaled nine points. She had a goal and assist against Bemidji and five goals and two assists against Willmar.
"That's a heck of a start, that's a major statement," Warriors coach Steve Kimble said.
Beilke said Willmar was running an offside trap that enabled her to shake loose.
"We practiced how to avoid that," she said. "After that we tried to dribble through them, take the ball down the side, and cross back to the middle. I usually like to hang around the center of the field, in front of the goal, wait for the ball to go across in front of the goalie and hit it in."
Early in her third varsity season Beilke is already the program's all-time leading scorer. She had 32 career points (22 goals) entering this season.
Kimble said Brainerd soccer has never had a "game changer," like Kelly Klein of St. Cloud Tech or Ashley Lehmeier of Sartell.
"We've never had anybody who can just flat out pump the ball in the back of the net like Jenni," Kimble said. "She's become quite a force."
Weight: 130 pounds
Other sports: Alpine skiing, track and field
Memorable sports achievement: Winning programs first subsection tournament game
Grade-point average: 3.7
Favorite subject: Physics
Favorite food: Chicken and Ranch pizza
Favorite TV show: That 70s Show
Hobbies: Water sports
Future plans: Attend Minnesota-Duluth, play soccer, pursue degree in pharmacy
Athlete she admires: Olympic soccer player Julie Soudy
Parents: Laura and Loren Beilke
Beilke's statistics may be startling considering she missed her sophomore season with sprained ankles and was the team's manager. The ankles still require braces and physical therapy.
"She looked like a pretty athletic kid, a pretty big kid, but I had no idea what she played," Kimble said. "Coming back last year it was like Cinderella story to superstar.
"She's still getting back in the groove of things. Now that she has a full year of varsity experience and summer training she's amazing. I had no idea this girl in jeans, who was our manager, would be that talented. She's been a pleasant surprise."
It may come as a surprise that Beilke led the conference in scoring last year. In addition, her 16 goals and 24 total points tied her for sixth place in Class 2A.
"I've been mostly an offensive player my whole soccer career," said Beilke, who moved to Brainerd in sixth grade from Mounds View. "That helped a lot (playing in the Mounds View system). I came in with more experience than a lot of our seniors."
Beilke said scoring is the result of teamwork. She said other keys are to develop the speed to beat defenders and to be physical up front.
"You can't be afraid to bump shoulders with anybody up there," she said. "You really have to want the goal more than the goalie wants to keep it out."
Kimble said being aggressive is a big part of what makes Beilke an effective scorer.
"She loves to run people over," he said. "Jenni earns a lot of goals by just hustling and being physical. She's been a great leader because of it.
"I can't think of a better senior captain as far as a model example. She works harder than 90 percent of the players on our squad. It's nice to have someone our young kids can look up to for that work ethic."
Other notable efforts:
Fanny Hagmeier, tennis, is 4-1 at No. 2 singles.
Chris Woodard, cross country, won the boys' division of the Run For Your Melon meet.
Brianna Elg, swimming, won two events and was on a first-place relay against Bemidji.
Danielle Uphoff, girls' soccer, had a hat trick against Willmar.
Brady Prince, football, rushed for 217 yards and two TDs against Bemidji.
Mike O'Day, football, passed for 133 yards and two TDs against Bemidji.
Will Kassulker, football, had 18 tackles against Bemidji.
Mike Bialka can be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5861.
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