For Nick Whiteman, it’s all about that smile.
Not his own, but the pearly whites of his teammates after they score a goal off an assist from Whiteman.
The Brainerd Warriors boys soccer captain knows the more his teammates smile the more goals he’s creating. That leads to more wins and that’s what makes Whiteman smile.
“To see their smile when they score is the best thing,” Whiteman said. “Knowing you helped put that smile there is great. I’d much rather get an assist than a goal.”
Whiteman is doing a little of both so far this season.
Whiteman set up Jack Thorkelson for Brainerd’s first goal of the season leading to a 2-0 victory over Rogers, Saturday, Aug. 24.
The Warriors improved to 2-0 as Whiteman tallied two goals and two assists in a 5-4 victory over St. Cloud Apollo Thursday, Aug. 29.
His first goal came on a penalty kick to tie the score 1-1. He then assisted Kaleb Sundquist’s goal for a 2-1 Warrior lead.
Whiteman cashed in on a second penalty kick to hand Brainerd a 3-2 halftime edge. Apollo forced overtime, but Whiteman assisted on Max Wheeler’s game winner 3:26 into the extra frame.
“He had a fantastic game against Apollo,” Warrior head coach Tom Grausam said. “He was seeing the field. His intelligence with soccer, you just can’t describe it. He watches a lot of soccer. He plays a lot of soccer. He watches film. He really studies the game so he knows it inside and out.”
Putting up big numbers is nothing new for the center midfielder for the Warriors, who led the Warriors in assists last season.
“He’s the playmaker,” Grausam said. “He makes certain plays. He controls the middle very well. For instance, at the end of the game when we won in overtime, Max Wheeler was just walking up and kind of disguising it and Nick recognized that. Normally, we would shoot directly at the goal, but he recognized Max and passed him the ball and we scored on it. That’s just something you can’t teach.”
Those instincts and knowledge of the game haven’t come easily for the four-year varsity player. Whiteman said he’ll practice twice a day during the summer months and puts in extra time during the school season, too.
“I have put in a lot of time toward soccer because there are places I want to go,” Whiteman said. “I want to play college soccer so, in order to do so, I know I have to put in the work. That involves me playing with two different teams during the summer and the high school team in the fall.”
Whiteman said his career highlight was scoring the game-winning goal against Moorhead in last year’s Section 8-2A quarterfinals. Brainerd won the game to advance to the semifinals for the second straight year.
Since Whiteman and his fellow senior teammates started filling up the varsity roster, Brainerd’s success rate has improved. In 2016, the Warriors finished 8-9. The next season, Brainerd finished 8-7-3 and defeated St. Michael-Albertville 2-0 in the section quarterfinals. That was Brainerd’s first section win since 2008.
Last year, the Warriors posted a 13-5 record and were 9-3 in the Central Lakes Conference. Those numbers have expectations high for this year’s team.
“We’re going into this season with a cool mind,” Whiteman said. “We know we can get there, but we’ve got the next game in mind. We’re focusing on our next game and not really looking too far ahead.
“But this is kind of it for us. We’ve all played together since we were 5 or 6. We have a brotherhood now and so we want to give it all before we move on and split our separate ways.”
Other notable performances
Jacquilyn Rude, swimming and diving, won the 50-yard freestyle and the butterfly and was on two winning relays against Bemidji.
Gabby VanHorn, swimming and diving, won the 200 individual medley and breaststroke and was on two winning relays against Bemidji.
Gabbie Smith, soccer, finished with three goals and an assist against St. Cloud Apollo.
Nick Whiteman, soccer, finished with two goals and an assist against St. Cloud Apollo.
Addie Sanford and Chloe Pecarich, tennis, won the No. 2 doubles title at Delano and won in a dual with Rocori.
Sport: Boys soccer
Position: Center midfielder
Career highlight: Scoring game-winning goal in overtime against Moorhead last year in the Section 8-2A quarterfinals
Other sports: Nordic skiing
Grade-point average: 3.9
Favorite class: AP Biology
Favorite food: Mac and cheese with shells
Favorite movie: “Spider-Man: Far from Home”
Favorite TV show: “Friends”
Favorite website or app: Snapchat
Favorite restaurant: Burritos California
Future plans: Attend college, play soccer, major in biology or biochemistry
Favorite athlete: Christian Ericksen of Tottenham Hotspur
Parents: Greg and Jamie Whiteman