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Warriors Athlete of Week: Speedy Smith would just as soon set up teammate than score

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Brainerd soccer player Gabbie Smith kicks the ball during practice Monday, Sept. 17. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch Video 2 / 2

When a player leads a team in scoring as well as in assists, that's a definition of an unselfish player.

Gabbie Smith leads the Brainerd Warrior girls soccer team in goals (11) and assists (8) and has scored three game-winning goals. And she would rather set up a teammate's goal over scoring one herself.

"I have a lot of teammates that can get to open places and finish the ball," the junior forward said. "When the chance is there, I try to look for them instead of doing it all myself."

Warriors head coach Grant Gmeinder said St. Cloud Apollo shadowed Smith with three defenders, but that didn't work out well for the Eagles. Smith finished the game with a hat trick and three assists.

"The funny thing is often times the more girls you put on her the more damage she does because nobody is really fast enough to stay with her," Gmeinder said. "She'll just lose three girls at the same time. She even mentioned it at halftime. We were up 5-0, I think, and she said, 'They're putting three girls on me so when I make runs out in wide areas the middle's wide open.'

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Gabbie Smith

  • Sport: Soccer
  • Position: Center forward
  • Year: Junior
  • Age: 17
  • Height: 5-6
  • Career highlight: Beating Roseau to advance to 2018 state girls hockey tournament
  • Other sports: Hockey, track and field
  • Favorite class: Math
  • Favorite food: Pasta
  • Favorite movie: "Miracle"
  • Favorite restaurant: Rafferty's Pizza
  • Future plans: Has made verbal commitment to play hockey at Bemidji State University
  • Favorite hockey player: Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins
  • Parents: Tom and Kris Smith

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"That's what happened in the second half. Gina (Wasniewski) got a couple (goals) in the second half and that's exactly why. Three girls would follow Gabbie out wide, leaving the middle of the field wide open for everyone else."

Gmeinder said unselfishness has been the theme of the Warriors' season.

"We talk a lot about depth and that's definitely the strength of our team," he said. "Gabbie's in a role right now where she should score and she's been scoring, which is great, but she's so unselfish. She realizes if these three girls follow me out here I'll go out there and somebody else scores.

"She's just as happy scoring or assisting or dragging people out of the way so someone else can do it."

Smith enjoyed a productive week Sept. 10-13. In an 8-0 win over Alexandria, 4-1 win over Rocori and 9-0 blitzing of Apollo, she accumulated seven goals and five assists.

"We started from the back and pushed to the front so our defense played well to get it to our mids," Smith said. "Then our mid and our wings got it up to me. We played as a team I thought."

Gmeinder said Smith's production last week transpired during a hectic period of competition.

"It was definitely an amazing week," he said. "It was kind of a tough week for us because we had three games in four days and we were coming off not playing for a long time. So for Gabbie to set the tone, even in the first game against Alexandria, was massive. Then she just continued that along and it culminated with three goals and three assists against Apollo."

Of her outburst against Apollo, Smith said, "I thought we passed the ball very well giving me through balls to run onto. We created a lot of space through the middle and the defense, too."

Gmeinder said teams are struggling to keep up with the speedy Smith.

"(Smith's speed) just creates so many problems for so many people," he said, "but I think where she's improved the most from last year is her understanding of the game. She understands how to use her speed a little more effectively. Her vision is so much improved.

"She had an assist against Apollo where she ran past the defender and got her head up. She probably could have taken it in and got a decent shot off. She saw Gina coming out early and put (the ball) right into Gina's path and Gina basically tapped it in.

"I think that's the biggest area she's improved in is the game has slowed down. She just understands how to use her physical abilities so much better."

Last season, the third-seeded Warriors scored their first Section 8-5A quarterfinal playoff victory since 2009, beating No. 6 Buffalo 3-1. Brainerd fell in the semifinals 5-1 to second-seeded St. Michael-Albertville. What will it take for the Warriors to take another step forward in the playoffs?

"I think we just need to keep playing how we've been playing, from the D on up, and the forwards," she said. "I think it's going to be more defense and getting it through the middle and then up."

Several members of this soccer team were also members of the Warrior girls hockey team that played in the 2A state tournament last winter. Smith believes that experience has helped her in her other sports.

"Now that I know how it feels to get that I think it really pushes me to want to do it again in all my other sports," she said.

Other notable efforts:

• Jacquilyn Rude, swimming, won two events, was on two winning relays vs. Alexandria and finished second in the 50 free at the Park Rapids Invite.

• Joe Klang, football, rushed for 100 yards and two TDs and punted three times for a 43.3-yard average vs. Alexandria.

• Ben Staehling, football, rushed for 130 yards and two TDs vs Alexandria.

• Avery Eckman, volleyball, had 23 kills and 19 digs vs. Apollo.

• Courtney Russell, volleyball, had 18 kills and 11 digs vs. Apollo.

• Jack Thorkelson, soccer, scored a hat trick vs. Tech.