BAXTER -- The Brainerd Warrior boys' soccer team got back to its winning ways with a 4-3 victory over the Willmar Cardinals Thursday.
But the victory didn't come easily despite the fact this is a Willmar team in the first year of varsity soccer.
Still, a win is a win and this one ended a four-game Warriors slide. Brainerd's record is now 4-3 in the Central Lakes Conference and 4-5 overall. Willmar's record slipped to 2-5 overall.
The Cardinals' offense is built on speed and deft ballhandling. They used both to open the scoring at 21:18 when Luis Garcia buried a shot in the upper right corner of the net, past Brainerd goaltender Kevin Sexton. Brainerd knotted the score seven minutes later on a goal by Mark Bublitz.
The 1-1 score held up until four minutes into the second half when the Warriors' Lincoln Lepri scored with an assist going to Jorgen Hartje. The goal gave Brainerd a 2-1 edge. But Willmar came right back, scoring at 47:18 to again pull even with the Warriors.
Brainerd went ahead for good on Lepri's second goal of the night. Lepri is an exchange student from Brazil and his leaping, acrobatic score earned a cheer of "Viva Brazil" from the crowd.
Jason Roberts scored with an assist going to Bublitz at 66:07 to give the Warriors a two-goal cushion at 4-2. A late score by Willmar's Luis Garcia, assisted by Jesus Garcia, finished the scoring for the night.
"When we put in Jason Roberts and some other guys that have a nose for the goal, it's very exciting to watch," said Warriors coach David Devine.
After losing four straight, Devine wasn't picky about how his team won.
"It's a win," said Devine. "And, when you have a four-game losing streak, a win is nice. Our guys did some of the exact things we've been working on in practice. As a coach, there's nothing more pleasing than that.
Sexton finished the game with eight stops to lead the Brainerd defensive effort.
Offensively, the Warriors seemed to start the game a little tight. Once they started passing the ball, they became much more effective.
"Tonight, we did some things that haven't been done before in Brainerd soccer history," said Devine, "things like working an offside trap and working together. Things came together nicely for us tonight."
The Warriors won't have long to relish their victory. They will host Alexandria on Saturday. Alexandria has never lost to Brainerd.
"This year we're definitely going through some aches and pains," said Devine, "starting with our captain, Ben Johnson, who has struggled with injuries all season. Two-year starter Jorgen Hartje has also had injuries. And tonight, our sweeper, Justin Cervin, was hurting so badly he had to leave the game at the 10-minute mark. I'm hoping we can get over our aches and pains and be ready to go against a very tough Alexandria team."
Willmar 2 1 -- 3
Brainerd 2 2 -- 4
First half -- 1-W, Luis Garcia (unassisted) 21:18; 2-B, Mark Bublitz (unassisted) 28:26.
Second half -- 3-B, Lincoln Lepri (Jorgen Hartje) 44:31; 4-W, Pablo Rodriguez (unassisted) 47:18; 5-B, Lepri (Tyler Nelson) 54:33; 6-Jason Roberts (Bublitz) 66:07; 7-W, L. Garcia (Jesus Garcia) 71:29
Shots on goal -- W, 5, 6 - 11; B, 3, 14 - 17
Goaltenders -- W, Gustavo Camargo (1-12--13); B, Kevin Sexton (3-5--8)
Conference -- W, 2-5; B, 4-3. Overall -- W, 2-5; B 4-5 . Next game -- Brainerd hosts Alexandria Saturday, 11 a.m.
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