BAXTER - Tori Saxum's foot was responsible for the first goal of the Brainerd Warriors season.
Tuesday, the same five toes booted the top-seeded Warriors into their sixth-straight Section 8-2A final.
Saxum's goal at 66:55 ignited the Warriors to a 2-0 semifinal victory over the fourth-seeded Buffalo Bison at Southdale Fields.
Kellie Barnaby added the insurance goal and keeper Cami Andersen collected eight saves for her seventh shutout this season.
Until Saxum's goal, her third this season, momentum was unattainable for either teams. Buffalo outshot Brainerd 5-3 in the first half, but the Warriors attempted seven shots in the second to the Bison's three.
Brainerd Warriors Madison Smith (left), Kellie Barnaby, Tori Saxum and Melissa Boggs celebrated a goal scored by Barnaby during the Section 8-2A girls' soccer semifinals against the Buffalo Bison Tuesday. Brainerd Dispatch/Kelly Humphrey» Purchase reprints of this photo.
One of those attempt's was Saxum's goal. On a free kick, the sophomore belted it toward net only to see it bounce back toward her.
"I was just trying to put it in hoping one of my teammates would be there and maybe get a header in, but it didn't work out so well," said Saxum, a defender. "Luckily the girl just kicked it back out to me and I got a lucky shot and it went in."
The goal allowed Brainerd's defense to play conservatively. Barnaby's goal provided a little more stress relief.
The senior captain was called to attempt a free kick after a Buffalo penalty. From about 18 feet out, Barnaby floated her shot over a wall of Bison players, over the keeper and just under the cross bar.
Warriors 2, Buffalo 0
Key: Two second half goals land Brainerd back in the finals
Overall: Brd 12-4-2, Buf 11-8-2
Next: Brainerd in Section 8-2A final at St. Cloud State University 7:30 p.m. Friday.
"At halftime I just said it comes down to who wants it more," said Warriors head coach Sara Rojas. "Then I told the girls it comes down to who can get some shots off and we did that in the second half. Tori came up and took that outside shot and that's what I asked her to do and she did it. It was good. That was awesome."
Buffalo had beaten Brainerd 1-0 during the regular season and 3-2 in last year's Section 8-2A final to advance to state.
While Rojas respected Buffalo, she had confidence in her defense to shut them out.
"From where we started to where we are now, they're solid," said Rojas. "I told Tori to stick with No. 7 (Shana Roberts) she did that. I told Brianna (Olson) to step where she needed to and she did that and I told my mids to cover the opposite side of the field for any cross balls and they did that. We kind of shut down some key players for Buffalo and I think it worked."
Not only did Brained have to battle a difficult opponent, but the weather conditions as well. A steady rain plagued the first half before a cold wind made things miserable in the second.
"We were worried it was going to be slippery," said Saxum. "We kept it up though and we've practiced in this before. We've got some good players so we did it."
Brainerd will advance to play in its sixth section final at St. Cloud State University. The Warriors own a 2-3 record in section finals. They will face the winner of Elk River and Moorhead. Brainerd defeated Moorhead 2-1 and Elk River 1-0.
Buffalo 0 0 - 0
Brainerd 0 2 - 2
Second half: Brd-Tori Saxum 66:55, Brd-Kellie Barnaby 70:38 FK
Shots on goal: Brd 3-7 - 10; Buf 5-3 -8
Goalkeepers: Brd-Cami Andersen (8 saves); Buf-Allyson Pecrina (8 saves)
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5856.
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