Boys Soccer: Whiteman's penalty kick sends Warriors to semis
Nick Whiteman just did what he always does.
The Brainerd Warriors junior improved to 6-for-6 on penalty kicks as he laced the ball to the left and scored the only goal of the Section 8-2A quarterfinal Thursday, Oct. 11, at Adamson Field in Brainerd, leading to a 1-0 Warrior overtime victory over the No. 6 Moorhead Spuds.
"I just did what I normally do," Whiteman said. "I was just so happy. I was excited. Now we are looking forward to Saturday."
The No. 3 Warriors will travel to No. 2 Maple Grove for the section semifinal round Saturday, Oct. 13, but it wasn't looking like that might be the case until 2:24 in the overtime frame.
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Warriors 1, Moorhead 0 OT
- Key: Nick Whiteman scored the only goal of the game
- Sect: Brd 4-2, Moor 1-2
- Overall: Brd 13-4, Moor 10-6-1
- Next: Brainerd at No. 2 Maple Grove Saturday, Oct. 13
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"I saw the ball pop out inside the box after a guy mis-cleared it," Whiteman said. "I knew I couldn't get a shot off at that angle so I just cut in front of him. I knew he had to do something and he fouled me and I just finished it."
Brainerd outshot Moorhead 9-4, but it's only other top scoring opportunity bounced off the crossbar as Mason Malone headed a near perfect shot too high early in the second half. Malone's shot was set up by a Jack Thorkelson cross. The two high-scoring forwards were held in check by Moorhead.
"No, they weren't a sixth seed and I knew that coming into this game," Warrior head coach Tom Grausam said. "Moorhead is always tough. They always put together an awesome team. I knew it was going to be competitive. This game went the way I expected it."
The Spuds came into the playoffs winners of their last three. They swept all the North Dakota teams and entered Thursday's game with a 1-1 section record.
"We didn't know anything about them really because they play all North Dakota teams," Whiteman said. "They only played St. Michael and Rogers in our section so we didn't know much. They came out better than what we expected, but we finished it. We stuck with it."
Brainerd came in winners of two straight and holding both opponents scoreless. After an overtime loss to St. Michael-Albertville Sept. 15, the Warriors finished the regular season 7-1 with their only loss a 2-1 defeat by top-seeded St. Cloud Tech.
In that stretch, the Warriors outscored teams 27-7.
Warriors keeper Noah Sundberg finished with four saves.
"We had some great communication," Sundberg said. "Moorhead's No. 10 (Alhasan Alomar), he would cross all the time. He would just cut right through that middle and he would go right behind. That's where our defense would call out and say, '10 is right there,' and we would close it down. That's why he got frustrated halfway through the game because he couldn't get the ball like he normally would."
The Spuds appeared more active in the opening half and surprised Brainerd's defense a bit. Sundberg said adjustments were made quickly to combat Moorhead's attack.
"Literally seven seconds into the game, Moorhead swapped two guys onto our right side," Sundberg said. "Normally we like to play very stretched out on our right and left sides. We had to compact in order to cover that. They had three guys on us all the time pressing us on offense so we had to pull people back the entire game."
That pressure prevented Brainerd from getting second-chance opportunities on many of its attacks, including corners.
"We wanted them to crash more, but they didn't really do that in the second half still," Grausam said. "We had a lot of corner kicks that came out to the 18, but we had nobody there. We didn't have anyone crashing. We were kind of tentative. I think the nerves played a role. I think the cold played a role."
But the Warriors wouldn't let Moorhead play the role of spoilers. It's the second-straight season Brainerd has opened the section tournament at home with a victory. It's also the second-straight year Brainerd will travel to Maple Grove for the semifinals.
"Every single year, Coach has been working on our mental strength," Sundberg said. "We've gotten stronger and stronger mentally and you saw it out here today. We fought all 90-some minutes and we just kept going. I think a lot of that has to do with our communication and brotherhood. This isn't a team. We're a brotherhood and everybody fights for everybody and that's how we won this game."
For more photos go to https://bit.ly/2CaHsru.
Moorhead 0 0 0—0
Brainerd 0 0 1—1
First half: No score
Second half: No score
Overtime: Brd-Nick Whiteman PK 2:24
Shots on goal: Brd 9, Moor 4
Goalkeepers: Brd-Noah Sundberg (4 saves); Moor-Caden Triggs (9 saves)