A new attitude and a new role have Mari Devine playing at an elite level right from the start.
The Brainerd Warrior senior said she started the season with an “attitude of gratitude” to just be able to play soccer this fall. She said one of her biggest goals is to savor every moment because it could be her last.
Devine gave herself something to savor in Brainerd’s season opener as the four-year varsity member scored three goals and assisted on another leading the Warriors to a 6-0 Central Lakes Conference victory over the Fergus Falls Otters.
“The game was very exciting,” Devine said. “Before it even happened I was excited all day and then just being able to finally get back with the team and play a real game against a real opponent, that’s not just a scrimmage, it felt so good. It was super awesome and super exciting.”
Devine’s first goal came off her left foot just inside the 18-yard mark and opened up a 1-0 Warrior lead.
Devine’s second goal came off a penalty kick and handed Brainerd a 3-0 halftime edge.
“My third goal was off a free kick,” Devine said. “Kayla Busch sent it in and me and Taylor Larson were running up to it and it took an odd bounce off the goalie and I was just there with an open net just to finish it and push it in the net.”
Devine’s assist came in the first half as she assisted Gabby Eckman.
As a junior, Devine was Brainerd’s third-leading scorer with 14 points. She posted seven goals and seven assists. When asked whether she preferred scoring a goal or setting up a teammate, Devine was torn.
“Honestly both,” Devine said. “Getting the goal myself is awesome and I think I would rather do that, but getting assists for my teammates, especially the younger girls, when this is their first year of starting varsity or playing varsity, being able to pass them the ball and shoot and score is an awesome feeling and I’m excited to do more of that this year.”
Devine said she wasn’t expecting to start the season as she did. The three-year starter said having no offseason to prepare and younger teammates around had her feeling unsure. Her head coach, Grant Gmeinder had no doubt.
“Honestly, yes, this is exactly what we expected from her,” Gmeinder said. “We knew her and a few others would transition to that role a little more. Honestly, we saw that from her last year. She was our third-leading scorer last year so it wasn’t that she couldn't’ do it. It just wasn’t what we needed from her last year. Now this year we definitely need that from her.”
Gmeinder pointed to Devine’s height and athleticism as reason’s the center midfielder is good at creating offense. But he said her biggest asset can best be seen on the defensive side.
“She is so good at winning balls in the air, which is such a difficulty for high school soccer players, especially girls,” Gmeinder said. “Her ability in that area makes such a huge difference. What we saw from her against Fergus, she would win the ball back quicker than most people were able to so we would end up with the ball closer to the Fergus goal.
“She’s able to see things and is able to pick up on things much quicker than most people and it’s a lot on the defensive side. Like I said, she’s so good at winning the ball back quickly and that just comes from a game sense of when we lose the ball she knows where she needs to go to win it back right away.”
Devine had the honor of playing behind the dynamic scoring duo of Gabbie Smith and Josie Kramer for most of her career. However, the opportunity to become the team’s offensive instigator and captain are roles she is relishing.
“Just having Gabbie in front of me in all the years I’ve played on varsity I’ve kind of been behind her figuratively and literally,” Devine said. “This year being able to kind of be that goal scorer for the team has felt really good. I’m super excited about it.”
Devine believes her biggest improvement this season is her field awareness. Just knowing where everything and everyone is at all times has helped her so far. She’s also playing with more confidence being a senior and that’s helped her learn and appreciate her younger teammates. But she had help from a former head soccer coach.
“(My dad, David Devine) has been able to help me,” Devine said. “After every game, we almost go through the entire game together and he really dissects it with me and that has been really helpful. I’ve been learning a lot of things other girls have missed out on by not having a former coach and soccer player in their family that can help them. My knowledge of the game has really increased over the years especially with my dad helping me.”
That help and her years of varsity experience have prepared her to be a strong captain and leader for the Warriors -- a role she’s eager to excel at.
“She’s been great, and I think all of our seniors really have,” Gmeinder said. “She’s very vocal on the field. Earlier in her career, she had the tendency to let the game overwhelm her at times and I think we’ve seen already this year is she is a calming presence for everyone on the field. That’s been so cool to see her grow in that way.”
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.
Other notable performances
Sophie Mattson, swimming and diving, won the 50- and 500-yard freestyles in a meet against Fergus Falls.
Catherine Moraghan, girls tennis, didn’t allow a point in her No. 2 singles match against Fergus Falls. She also scored a straight-set win over St. Cloud Tech.
Adam Klecker, boys soccer, scored a goal and assisted another against Fergus Falls.
Lindsy Busch, girls tennis, posted a 6-0, 6-0 win at No. 4 singles against St. Cloud Tech.
Sport: Girl Soccer
Position: Center Midfield
Career highlight: Scoring the tying goal against St. Michael-Albertville last season
Other sports: Nordic skiing and track and field
Grade-point average: 4.0
Favorite class: Chemistry
Favorite food: Ice cream
Favorite movie: “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2”
Favorite TV show: “Stranger Things”
Favorite website or app: Instagram
Favorite restaurant: Rafferty’s
Future plans: Undecided, but hopes to attend college
Favorite athlete: Abby Wambach
Parents: David Devine and Erika Nilsen