Lexi McElfresh would rather forget her junior season.
Not only was the girls’ soccer season shortened because of COVID-19, but McElfesh battled illness and injury for the majority of the season.
McElfresh wasted little time getting going this season. In Brainerd’s 13-0 win over St. Cloud Apollo Thursday, Sept. 2, McElfresh opened the scoring 16 seconds into the game. The senior added two more goals for a hat trick as Brainerd posted a 13-0 victory.
“I was super excited coming into this season and I knew I was in the best health of my life,” McElfresh said. “I just tried to be creative and work with what I have.
“Last year was bad. I was sick and had injuries the whole year. Last offseason, starting in December, I just started working out every day with running and lifting. Throughout the summer, I just trained on my own a lot. I continued lifting and conditioning.”
The senior’s last two goals against Apollo came four minutes apart as the victory pushed Brainerd to a 2-0 start to the season.
“She’s really improved her speed and quickness,” Warrior head coach Grant Gmeinder said. “That’s such a credit to how hard she worked over the summer. In the past, she’s always been strong and has had great ball-striking ability. I think she’s added a little more quickness and speed which has freed her up to strike that ball the way she can.”
McElfresh added two assists in the Warriors’ season-opening victory over the Moorhead Spuds Tuesday, Aug. 31. Five different Warriors scored against Moorhead.
“The whole team has been great with finding the open player,” Gmeinder said. “We had a bunch of different goal scorers against Apollo, too. With Lexi, she’s playing right midfield. She's had some opportunities to get into the middle and score, but we’ve asked a lot of her out there. We want her to cross the ball and find teammates and that's how all three of her assists have come, are off of crosses. She’s very, very accurate when she does that.”
McElfresh is excited about her team’s depth. With aspirations of not only going to the Class 3A state tournament, but also winning it she likes how everyone can be a scoring threat.
“In both of our first two games everyone just started out super strong in the beginning,” McElfresh said. “We just kept going. I think the other teams, I don’t want to say gave up, but we asserted ourselves early and just showed how good we are this year.”
As a sophomore, McElfresh tallied two goals and four assists. That was her third season on varsity as this will be her fifth varsity season.
Because of that experience the game has slowed for McElfresh. Gmeinder described it as dictating the action instead of reacting to the action.
“This year definitely feels a lot easier,” she said. “I think I just trust myself a lot more this year. In the past years, I’ve definitely been a lot more nervous. I knew I could keep up with everyone, but this year I’ve just gotten a lot more relaxed and just try to do what I know I can do. I’m not worried about all the little things and I feel like that’s helped me.”
McElfresh plays right midfield, but this season she’s being asked to cover a lot of ground. Gmeinder said they would like her to focus on defense more this season while still supplying that offensive threat and continue to push the offense, create opportunities for teammates and score goals of her own.
Gmeinder admitted the coaching staff is asking a lot of McElfresh, but he praised how she’s held up so far. And McElfresh doesn’t mind.
“This year, I definitely have to be more of a leader,” she said. “I’m still a forward, but as a team, we are definitely taking much more of a defensive approach. There is a lot more running, but that’s OK because I feel like it helps our team as a whole. Without a strong defense, you don’t have that great of an offense.”
"“This year definitely feels a lot easier,” she said. “I think I just trust myself a lot more this year.."
— Lexi McElfresh
Another new role for McElfresh is as a senior captain. It’s a role she’s wanted since she first started playing varsity soccer. She said it’s an honor. Gmeinder said she fits the description of a captain.
“The biggest thing for her is she is just a great example,” Gmeinder said. “This summer, I think professionalism is the word I’ll use, with how committed she was to training and going to the high school program. Then during practices, she comes ready to work and to improve. She loves soccer. She likes having fun and she brings that energy. She’s a five-year varsity player so she knows what we need to improve every day.”
Other notable performances
Taylor Ruhl, tennis, finished 3-0 last week.
Lacy Busch, tennis, finished 3-0 last week.
Catherine Moraghan, tennis, finished 3-0 last week.
Lindsy Busch, tennis, finished 3-0 last week.
Meghan Smith, volleyball, finished with 17 kills, 16 digs, two blocks and one ace serve in two matches last week.
Marcello Getty, football, finished 15-of-24 passing for 247 yards and a touchdown against Andover.
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.
Position: Right midfielder
Career highlight: Beating Moorhead last year in Section 8-2A quarterfinals
Grade-point average: 3.9
Favorite class: Math
Favorite food: Pizza
Favorite movie: “The Twilight Saga”
Favorite TV show: “The Vampire Diaries”
Favorite website or app: Snapchat
Favorite restaurant: Olive Garden
Future plans: Undecided. Possibly attend college in North Carolina
Favorite athlete: Simone Biles
Parents: Lori and John McElfresh