To say Jude Hiltner is a patient young man might be a bit of an understatement.
The senior goalkeeper for the top-seeded Brainerd Warriors boys soccer team waited two years behind Noah Sundberg for his chance to man the net.
Hiltner got his first ever chance Aug. 24 against Rogers. The 6-foot-3 keeper blanked the Royals. It was one of his six shutouts this season.
But Hiltner knew the start was coming all the way back to the end of last season.
“He was ready to go,” Warrior head coach Tom Grausam said. “After last season, I told him he was going to be a captain. I told him what was expected of him as a captain. He took that role and he ran with it. He ran captains’ practice. He showed up for my boot camp
“Last year, he was a captain at the junior varsity level so he knew what was expected of him as a captain.”
Hiltner said it was a great feeling to be named a starter before the season even began and he took his captain’s duties seriously.
He worked on his soccer IQ and diagnosed his weaknesses and improved them.
“My knowledge has gotten a lot better,” Hiltner said. “Back in 10th grade, I wasn’t as good in positioning. I would sometimes make risky plays and I think I’ve gained the soccer knowledge to play it smarter and know when the right time is to come out of the net.”
Being 6-3 and having a large wingspan helps said Hiltner, but he admitted to struggling with the low corners. He worked on it all season to put up stats like his six shutouts. Hiltner missed just one game, but finished 9-1-2 while in net. In those 12 games, teams have only scored eight goals against him. Four of those goals were off of penalty kicks. Another was an own goal scored by one of Hiltner’s own teammates.
“I had high expectations,” Grausam said. “The last couple of years he has been developing, but he was behind Noah Sundberg, who was an outstanding goalie. But Jude has been working hard for the last three years to earn a spot this year. He’s just been focused. He has a goal in mind and he’s trying to achieve it.”
And Hiltner acknowledged that playing behind Sundberg was a great learning experience and he’s happy to pass along the knowledge he’s gained.
“Being the goalie that he was, he’s super good, and so I learned a lot from him,” Hiltner said of Sundberg. “Waiting was a great opportunity because he was able to teach me a lot. Now that my turn is here, it’s a lot of fun. I love sharing with the younger kids now on ways to get better.”
Brainerd is on a 10-game unbeaten streak as it heads into the Section 8-2A quarterfinals Thursday, Oct. 10. In that time, Hiltner has collected five shutouts, including back-to-back 1-0 victories against St. Cloud Tech and St. Michael-Albertville to close out the regular season.
“That gives us a ton of confidence as a team and me personally,” Hiltner said. “Just knowing that we’re able to shut down good teams like that. There's going to be a lot of tough games ahead if we want to make it far and we’re going to have to win those tight games like that and be able to come through with a win each time. I think that really helps us get a feel for the upcoming games that we’re going to have to play.”
“It’s really important to win those ones. Those are the ones that kind of define what a team can be. We’ve kind of always been a second-half team. We’ve had a lot of late, come-from-behind games the last couple years. It appears to be happening like that again. We’d like to get a good lead early in the games, but winning those tight games is really important.”
Hiltner made three saves against Tech and four against St. Michael. He’s collected 27 total for the season. He said having the defense he has in front of him as been a plus.
“As a team we’ve been working really well,” Hiltner said. “The defense in front of me helps me out. I haven’t really faced many games where it’s been challenging. I think the games we had versus like Tech were a great opportunity for me to show that I could hang out at the varsity level.
“We’re just reading the field. When teams would send runners up, I think we did a good job of communicating where to position ourselves and also just being able to stop those shots. That’s what really helped us in those games.”
Grausam said Hiltner has great mental preparation before games. He gets into a zone, motivates the team and himself.
For Hiltner it’s all about finishing off a great season with his teammates.
“The season has been a lot of fun,” Hiltner said. “These are the guys we’ve been playing soccer with since we were 4 or 5. To have it finally pay off with a team like this is just a great feeling.”
Other notable performances
Isaac Foster, boys soccer, scored game-winning goal against St. Cloud Tech and against St. Michael-Albertville.
Emma Smith, girls soccer, scored the game-winning goal against St. Cloud Tech.
Shayla Makowski-Budrow, girls soccer, made three saves in a 1-0 shutout of St. Cloud Tech and made seven saves in a 1-1 tie with St. Michael-Albertville.
Jacquilyn Rude, swimming and diving, won the 50- and 100-yard freestyles and was on two winning relays against Rocori.
Macey Whitlock, swimming and diving, won the 200 individual medley and 500 freestyle and was on two winning relays against Rocori.
Nate Staehling, football, rushed for 128 yards and three touchdowns and threw for 43 yards against Sartell.
Jacob Drietz, football, recovered a fumble and returned it 22 yards for the game-winning points against Sartell.
Kate Kurtzman, tennis, places second in the North Subsection 8-2A singles tournament.
Lily Jones-Ally Goeden, tennis, finished third in the North Subsection 8-2A doubles tournament.
Addie Sanford-Chloe Pecarich, tennis, finished fourth in the North Subsection 8-2A doubles tournament.
Sport: Boys soccer
Career highlight: His six shutouts and the team’s goals-against average of 0.9
Grade-point average: 3.9
Favorite class: Photography
Favorite food: Steak
Favorite movie: “The Italian Job”
Favorite TV show: Watching Minnesota sports
Favorite website or app: Snapchat and Minnesota Soccer Hub
Favorite restaurant: Rafferty’s Pizza
Future plans: Hopes to study business or entrepreneurship possibly at Grand Canyon University in Arizona.
Favorite athlete: Zach Parise
Parents: Nate and Ally