In a matchup of two of the Central Lakes Conference's elite, the Brainerd Warrior girls' soccer team stepped up its play just in time to prevail over the Sartell Sabres on Tuesday.
The 2-1 triumph did not come easy for the Warriors as they found themselves engaged in a physical contest with the Sabres and battling from behind most of the way.
Brainerd coach Steve Kimble said his team's matchup against Sartell, the fourth-ranked Class 1A team, featured the two best outstate teams in Minnesota.
"We beat a real good team today and it was not easy," Kimble said. "We were fortunate enough to have a good second half."
Emily Olson evened the score on a free kick
That second half allowed the Warriors to escape with the victory, but the Sabres held the advantage at the midway point.
At the 26:46 mark, Sartell's Sarah Schellinger lifted a shot over the head of Warriors keeper Betsy van der Hagen to give the Sabres a 1-0 advantage.
The score would remain that way through halftime until near the 60-minute mark when Brainerd finally got on the board.
The Sabres' penalty in the 59th minute would prove to be a costly one as Warriors junior Emily Olson blasted a free-kick shot from long-range into the back of the net at 58:57 to even the contest at 1-1.
Kimble said the goal was an unexpected one from Olson.
Lucy Sweeney scored the go-ahead goal
"She shot a laser.
She's really got a range on her," he said. "I was honestly thinking it was out of her range and wanted her to kick it lightly over the wall ... She goes for the net with confidence in her foot and nails it."
Less than 10 minutes later, Brainerd gained its first advantage of the game on a goal by Lucy Sweeney, set up by Megan Zillmer's corner kick, at 65:07.
Sweeney gave most of the credit to Zillmer's corner kick, something the Warriors have repeatedly practiced.
"Zillmer has been taking amazing corner kicks ever since I've played soccer so I get used to where they are going to land," Sweeney said. "I saw this one land in an open area and we've been working on it forever so I just tapped it in. It was an amazing corner."
Kimble said the goal was a matter of Sweeney being in the right place at the right time.
"We've been trying to take our corners a little more serious this year," he said. "Lucy put herself in the right spot. It doesn't have to be pretty, you just have to make contact and that's what she did."
Warriors 2, Sartell 1
The key: After being shut out for nearly 60 minutes, the Warriors evened the score with a free-kick score by junior Emily Olson in the 59th minute.
Conference: Brd 9-0,
Overall: Brd, 11-2,
Next: Brainerd at St. Cloud Tech 7 p.m. Thursday
Sweeney's kick was the eventual game-winner as the Warriors stayed on the offensive for the remainder of the contest.
Kimble said Sartell was a worthy and physical opponent that gave his team a great test in a hard-fought game.
"They matched us physically," he said. "A lot of teams maybe whine and complain about how physical we are. Sartell just gave it right back. We're about as evenly matched as two teams can be."
Sartell 1 0 - 1
Brainerd 0 2 - 2
First half: Sar, Sarah Schellinger, 26:46
Second half: Brd, Emily Olson, 58:57; Brd, Lucy Sweeney (Megan Zillmer) 65:07
Shots on goal: Sar 9-4 - 13; Brd 6-6 - 12
Goalkeepers: Brd, Betsy van der Hagen (12 saves); Sar, Kayla Hendrickson (10 saves)
TY RUSHMEYER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 855-5865.
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