It would be understandable if Kate Bjornson was a little gun-shy or saw soccer balls in her dreams.
In the final six games of the girls' soccer season the Brainerd Warriors' goaltender was peppered by the opposition, facing less than 20 shots just once in that stretch. Included in that span were 31 saves in a Section 8AA tournament loss to Elk River, 33 against St. Cloud Tech and 39 against Detroit Lakes.
"I just kept telling myself I had to keep going," Bjornson said. "Our defense really improved by the end of the year."
Elk River, seeded second in the section, ended the season for the Warriors, who were seeded seventh.
"We didn't play our best," Bjornson said. "I think we were nervous about playing the No. 2 team. We're usually a second-half team. We played better in the second half."
Warriors coach George Kohan said Bjornson fits the profile of a goalie, many of whom are unique individuals who have their quirks.
"Kate has turned into a much more aggressive goalie," Kohan said. "She has stepped up her attitude in the net. Goalies are unique people anyway. They are typically fairly inside people. They tend to keep to themselves on the field. They tend to be introspective in a sense. Once they get revved up and focused, they're hard to beat."
Kohan thought Bjornson's season turned around when she began to be an "attacking goalie," going after the opposition rather than waiting for them to approach the net.
"She applied that to our games with a more aggressive and daring style of play," Kohan said. "That's why she was more successful.
"She played with no fear (against Alexandria). If there was a difference in the game it was when she went from not sure to totally not being afraid at all. Her level of play and attitude in the nets was reflected on the field. She sets the pace. When your leader is in the nets your team will rise to her level. I think she thrives on that. She likes to be recognized as a leader."
The game against Alexandria was scoreless at halftime and was 2-0 in the second half in favor of the Cardinals when Brainerd came roaring back.
"When we scored one it was like, 'We can score another one,'" Bjornson said. "I have never heard the crowd cheer so loud. It was really neat."
Bjornson thought it was neat that last year's varsity goalie, Branelle Cibuzar, helped her with the mental aspects of being a goalkeeper.
"At the end of last year Branelle got hurt and I got to play more on the varsity," Bjornson said. "She told me not to worry about the other teams and just play my game."
Kohan is heartened by the fact Bjornson is just a sophomore and hopefully will help point the program in a winning direction the next two years.
"She has matured into her role in the game," Kohan said. "She's just a young goalie. She takes on big-time players. She took on Elk River players like they didn't exist. She made some in-your-face stops. That was a sign that she has started to mature in her role. I'm looking for her as a senior to be a standout player, no doubt about it.
"Kate's only 15. She's one of the younger sophomores in the group. She's a big kid (5-9, 140 pounds), she's athletic. Because of her size and her athleticism I forget she's a young 15. I expect her to do things because I think she's older."
Other notable efforts by Warriors:
Tara Schmidt, diving, set pool and school records against Sartell.
Megan Whalen-Megan Steiger, tennis, finished fourth in the subsection and advanced to the section.
Cori Severson, swimming, won one event against Tech and was on two first-place relays.
Tyler John, football, rushed for 105 yards and two touchdowns against Little Falls.
(Athlete of the week is honored by the Brainerd Sports Boosters Club).
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