Girls Soccer: Warriors set high goals for this year’s squad
The bar is set high for the 2021 squad which includes many returning players from a team that finished 9-2-1 overall and fell to second seeded Maple Grove in the semi-finals of the section 8-2A.
“Our goal is to win the state tournament and it’s not out of reach for this group,” said Brainerd head coach Grant Gmeinder. “It’s a big goal, but it’s not out of reach.
The excitement comes from a successful summer season as well as a competitive preseason scrum against top notch competition.
A large core group of this year’s squad won the US Cup in late July in Blaine and trained hard with Gmeinder and other coaches.
“We went to Duluth on Saturday August 21 for preseason scrimmages with Mounds View, Cretin-Derham Hall, Champlin Park and Hopkins and we were just very happy with the level of competition there,” said Gmeinder. “We were happy with the way we played up there. In terms of results, it’s the best we’ve done up there. Not necessarily the best we’ve played overall, but how those scores turned out got us excited about this group.
Brainerd moved up to Section 8-3A this season, which is a change since the Minnesota State High School League added a third class. Other than No.3 and a few different teams, there isn’t much different with this move.
“The state high school league just split 1A into 1A and 2A and moved 2A into 3A,” Geminder said. “It didn’t really change much for us, but the more the realignment changed. Maple Grove is out of our section and Bemidji is back and for the first time Sartell is in our section.
“It’s pretty good for us to have another conference team back in our section, then another team from the north in Bemidji. It certainly helps with the planning. We naturally have a lot more section teams on our schedule, which is a good thing. “
The other teams in 8-3A will be Buffalo, Elk River, Moorhead, Rogers and St. Michael-Albertville.
Also, new this season is the Northern 218 tournament held in Moorhead later in the season.
“The Duluth East coach kind of suggested it two years ago,” Gmeinder said. “Of course we couldn’t do it last year. We are really excited about this. We call it the Northern 218 tournament. It’s Duluth East, us, Bemidji and Moorhead. It will be a rotating host every year so Moorhead will host it this year and then one of the other schools will host it next year. Every four years, we will be able to host it.
Brainerd will face Moorhead on Friday October 1 and Bemidji will face Duluth East. The winners would then face off and the losers would face off on Saturday. There will be a traveling trophy.
“I think it will be a great test for us with two section teams and Duluth East is still competitive,” said Gmeinder. “It’ll be just another thing for us to aim for, which is really cool for high school kids to have multiple goals throughout the year. Obviously our # 1 goal is to win the state tournament, but we know that’s a really big goal. For us, setting more achievable goals throughout the year, too, will be really fun to achieve. “
Another goal is the title of the Central Lakes Conference. Brainerd will lead a 37-game unbeaten streak against opponents from CLC this season. Brainerd is 36-0-1 against opponents in the conference. The draw came on October 8, 2020 against Alexandria.
Last season, Brainerd dominated his opponents 44-6. His two losses were against Moorhead and Maple Grove, tying the scores 2-1. The Warriors finished with nine clean sheets, or shutouts.
In the net for Brainerd will be second year Peyton LeMieur.
“She started a number of games for us last year,” Gmeinder said. “Peyton arrived at camp in just amazing condition. She is one of our top athletes in terms of physical and other tests. I think this year, more than anything, she uses that athleticism more. As a ninth grader she wouldn’t use that athleticism for her success, but she’s doing it a lot this year. On top of that, she looks a lot more confident and I think these two go hand in hand.
In front of LeMeur is a group of young but experienced defenders made up of juniors Molly Hagelie and Cally Robertson, as well as juniors Ally Dwyer and sophomore Molly Pohlkamp. Senior Emerson Holcomb-Smith and sophomore Eva Oium will rotate in defense.
“Just to have Molly (Hagelie) and Cally back, those two were such a big part of the squad last year that they haven’t allowed a goal in eight games. Lots of leadership and stability on their part, and then with Molly (Pohlkamp) and Ally, who played last year, we’re also excited about what they can do. It’s a good balance between experience and youth. Next year we won’t be looking for a brand new backline, but we’re not new either.
“Emerson is a good communicator and will be a great asset coming off the bench with her energy and leadership. Eva had a great first week and a half and we are delighted with her. She could also go up in the middle.
Senior captains Avery LeMieur and Emma Tautges are back and will take care of the midfield responsibilities. They will team up with Emma Balsley who started in defense last season but will move up in the middle of this season. Second year student Alice Balsley will rotate in the middle. Gmeinder said she had a good camp.
“When we think of Avery, she is such a great leader by example, especially in practices,” Gmeinder said. “She wants to win every rep. If we go there (1 player vs. 1 player), she wants to win it. If we go there (2 players vs. 1 player), she wants to win it. It doesn’t matter if we’re just racing across the field. She wants to win this. Just this example of your captain and a three year old starter, it reflects.
“Emma is a child who has just made steady progress. She is always someone who comes and gets better and if you give her 10 minutes in a game, she will fight to play 15 minutes. She is an ultimate role player in football. She knows her role and then she works to expand it and not to settle down. She keeps pushing to do more.
On offense, senior captain Lexi McElfresh as well as juniors Emma Sheflo and Gabby Eckman. Juniors Paige Yeager and Gretchen Paysse will assist in the attack.
“Lexi had a tough year last year with minor injuries, illnesses and stuff,” Gmeinder said. “She just looks fresh and healthy. She worked really hard this summer. She arrived at the camp in the best condition of her life with her tests. She’s ready to have a big year.
The key to meeting Brainerd’s high expectations will be defense and Gmeinder is confident in his team’s defensive approach.
“This team is similar to last year’s team in that we will be putting our hat on the defensive,” said Gmeinder. “What I like about this group is that it’s not just defense in the back line. It really starts at the top with Emma Sheflo, Gabby and Lexi. I really think that’s where we’re going to hang our hats. We talked about how we’re going to win the biggest game of the year. Of course we want to win every game, but we want to win playoff games and in football it starts with defense.
JEREMY MILLSOP can be reached at 218-855-5856 or [email protected] Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.
Saturday August 28: welcomes New Prague at 11 a.m.
Tuesday, August 31: welcomes Moorhead at 7 p.m.
September 2: welcomes St. Cloud Apollo at 7 p.m.
Sept. 7: at St. Cloud Tech 7 p.m.
Sep 9: Host Sartell 7 p.m.
Sep 13: at Sauk Rapids 7 p.m.
Sep 16: greets Willmar at 7 p.m.
Sep 21: at Fergus Falls 7 p.m.
Sep 23: welcomes Alexandria at 7 p.m.
Sep 25: at Bemidji 1 p.m.
Sept. 27: at Rocori 4 p.m.
October 1: Northern 218 tournament in Moorhead
October 2: Northern 218 Tournament in Moorhead
Oct 5: at Sartell 5 p.m.
Oct 7: Welcomes St. Cloud Tech at 7 p.m.
October 9: welcomes Rogers at 11 a.m.
List of warriors
Senior: Emma Tautges, Lexi McElfresh, Emerson Holcomb-Smith, Avery LeMeur
Junior: Breya Sawyer, Paige Yeager, Emma Sheflo, Allie Dwyer, Emma Balsley, Gretchen Paysse, Gabby Eckman, Cally Robertson
Second year: Peyton LeMeur, Grace Holcomb-Smith, Alice Balsley, Eva Oium, Molly Pohlkamp, Molly Hagelie
Eighth grader: Lilly Derosier
Warrior girls football
The Head Coach: Grant Gmeinder, eighth season
Arrival 2020: 7-0-1 CTC, 9-2-1 overall
Career review: Career 86-23-4 (.761)
Captains: Avery LeMeur, Lexi McElfresh, Emma Tautges
Director: Josie Kappes, Macy Peterson
Assistant coaches: Alexandria Hirsch, Sarah Melhorn, Mike Weissenfluh, Nick Weeks