In a tuneup for the Section 8, Class 2A boys' soccer playoffs, the Brainerd Warriors wanted to stay injury-free Tuesday and start a winning streak against Central Lakes Conference opponent Alexandria Tuesday.
There are many reasons to want a win before the playoffs. For the streaky Warriors, a win is usually followed with another win.
Brainerd started the season with six straight losses, then went on a four-game win streak. Brainerd then lost three in a row before splitting its last two games.
The Warriors wanted a win and that's what they got. Brainerd won 2-0 to finish the regular season 6-10 overall, 5-7 in the conference.
"It's my seventh year in Brainerd, my fifth year coaching, and I know who Alexandria is against Brainerd sports," said Warriors coach David Devine. "Until this season we had never beaten them so we're not only looking at the second win against them, but the first season sweep.
"It was the last game for my seniors on their home field. It was exactly what I wanted. We weren't holding anything back."
Not only was this a win, it was Brainerd's third shutout of the season. Brainerd held Alexandria to just six shots on goal, and goalkeeper Kevin Sexton corralled all six attempts. Defense, which Devine thought would be a soft spot on the team, turned out to be one of the Warriors' most consistent areas of play.
Senior Bud Rossina started the game and did a good job of keeping the Cardinals from getting any serious attempts at the net.
"We wanted to get the ball effectively out and just control it, to not let their offense get any chances or any breaks," said Rossina. "We wanted to stay marked up and if we were going to commit to a guy, not to let that guy score.
"It's a good win. I'm just more proud that we controlled the game. We were down in their half more than 80 percent of the game."
By controlling the ball the Warriors were able to score early. Jorgen Hartje lobbed a pass toward net and thought he had Jason Roberts for a goal. Roberts missed, but Andres Alvarado was there to score.
Jesse Bates, before checking into the game in the second half, thought he was going to score a goal. He even told the clock operator he was going to score.
At the 58:40 mark, off a pass from Roberts, Bates gathered the ball in and fired past Cardinal goalie Dan Olson.
But, the story was the Warriors' defense which was continually in the side pockets of Alexandria forwards. Devine couldn't say enough about the defense.
"The funny thing about this season, I thought scoring goals would not be a problem and I was very nervous about our defense," said Devine. "If you look at the scoreboard, scoring goals turned out to be our Achilles heel and the defense kept us in every game.
"I would constantly say that I would give any team two goals. I thought that all the time and how many games did we lose 2-1. I never in my wildest dreams thought this year our troubles would be on the offensive end."
Of Brainerd's 10 losses it lost five times by a score of 2-1 and twice by 3-2 margins. The Warriors lost 4-2 to St. Cloud Tech and their other two losses were against Apollo.
Brainerd will hopefully carry over its momentum into Saturday's quarterfinal playoff game against Moorhead.
"It's been a roller coaster of streaks," said Devine. "Looking at those streaks, other than a few blips on the radar screen, Apollo, the streak is we're playing the same soccer, but we're losing 2-1.
"This season is definitely a what-if, what could have been. I really didn't expect us to end at 6-10. At a minimum I expected that number to be flipped. My expectations were 11-5."
The Warriors received the sixth seed in Section 8 and will travel to third-seeded Moorhead Saturday. It's the best seed in Brainerd soccer history.
Alexandria 0 0 -- 0
Brainerd 1 1 -- 2
First half -- 1, B-Andres Alvarado (Jorgen Hartje) 6:06
Second half -- 2, B-Jesse Bates (Jason Roberts) 58:40
Shots on goal -- B 6-5--11, A 3-3--6
Goaltenders -- B-Kevin Sexton (6 saves); A-Dan Olson (9 saves)
Conference -- B 5-7. Overall -- B 6-10. Next match -- Brainerd at Moorhead in first round of Section 8 2A tournament 1 p.m. Saturday.
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