Warriors Athlete of Week: Larson’s leadership has Warriors winning

Senior captain Taylor Larson is bringing a confident attitude to a young Warriors squad.

Brainerd Warrior Taylor Larson (center) celebrates her goal with teammates Macy Peterson (left) and Mercedes Engstrom Tuesday, Feb. 16, against the Storm'n Sabres Girls Hockey team at Essentia Health Sports Center. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Typically the Brainerd Warrior athlete of the week fills the stat sheet from the week before.

Taylor Larson fills her own stat sheet every week, but being a defenseman on the Warriors girls hockey team few people can decipher just how impactful the senior is in every game.

Luckily, her head coach knows just how invaluable Larson is to the Brainerd/Little Falls squad.


“Taylor is the most consistent kid I’ve ever been around,” Warriors head coach Jack Freeman said. “Every day when you show up at the rink you know what you’re going to get from Taylor in the way that she works and the way that she competes. Whether it’s a practice or a game, she is just so consistent. Knowing how consistent she is, I think that is very comforting to our younger players. When she’s on the back and they know she has her back, yeah, they’ll play with a little more confidence. I think everyone does. I think she makes everyone around her that much better and that much more confident because they know she has their back.”

Larson is tied for the team lead in points this season. She’s posted four assists and one goal. Her goal came in a 5-1 blowout of Moorhead. She posted two assists in a 5-1 victory over Bemidji. Both wins are part of Brainerd’s four-game win streak.

WINNERS: Girls Hockey: Variety of scorers power Warriors past Spuds
“In practice, we’ve been focusing a lot on being really, really competitive and wanting it more than the other team,” Larson said. “That’s a huge thing in order to go out there and each night knowing what you want and need to do.”

What fans don’t see, but her teammates do is Larson’s leadership this season. The captain is one of just three seniors. Larson takes immense pride in the role.

“It’s definitely really exciting and with the year being as crazy as it has been it’s definitely even bigger because you’re making sure everyone is being safe and all that sort of stuff,” Larson said. “I just help lead my team because they know what they’re supposed to do so I just make sure everyone is doing their job.

“Throughout the years, I’ve definitely been able to learn a lot from my past captains. It was awesome to be able to learn from them.”

Last year, Larson posted six goals and 13 assists. She tallied three power-play assists and that’s another aspect Freeman couldn’t praise enough. The amount of minutes Larson logs from game-to-game impresses him as well as an improved offensive approach.

“She’s more confident offensively in terms of what I see,” Freeman said. “Defensively she’s always been the best shutdown defender, in my opinion, in the state. She works on our top power play. She’s got a ton of touches on the puck. She provides a lot of offense for us in terms of what she’s able to create at the point. She’s very smart. She plays a ton of minutes and she plays a lot of hard minutes. She’s able to manage the game with the amount of minutes that she’s playing and that’s pretty special to watch.”


Larson said her biggest improvement has been her confidence. This despite playing in some of the biggest games in program history.

"My confidence has been going up every single year,” Larson said. “I know when I’m out there, I’m not looking for my teammates to carry us. I know I’m out there and I can do my job and help the team win.”

As a sophomore on B/LF’s 2019 state runner-up team. Larson posted 12 assists, including three on the power play. She tallied an assist in the Section 8-2A playoffs and registered an assist in Barinerd’s 4-0 state quarterfinal victory over White Bear Lake

ASSISTING: Girls Hockey: Warriors topple Bemidji 5-1 at home
“Assists are a really big thing and they’re just as important as goals in my opinion,” Larson said. “Being a playmaker out there for your team is such a big deal. I just know where my players are going to be and I know where they are going to have success and it’s good to help them with that.”

That big-game experience is paying dividends this year.

“She’s been in so many big games that there isn’t a moment that’s too big for her,” Freeman said. “She shows up to the rink and she’s ready to go regardless of the situation. She leads by example and I think she shows our younger girls the right way to do things and the right way to prepare for the games. She shows them how to take care of business at the rink, away from the rink. She goes above and beyond.”

Larson said her responsibilities as a defenseman are to protect the goalie, clear the zone and make smart decisions. This year she’s included making smart decisions on the offensive end by keeping the puck in the zone and making good passes to generate offense.

She said having a strong defensive core around her helps, but it also helps to have two goalies with a year of experience under their belts. Both Breya Sawyer and Emily Johnson returned after rookie seasons last year.


“It’s been awesome,” Larson said. “They have both been playing really well this year. I’m really impressed with how they’ve been doing. As a young player, it’s always difficult to have that confidence, but I think now they’ve had that one year under their belt that they’re doing really well this year.”

EXPECTATIONS: Girls Hockey: New look Warriors head into 2021 hungry
In Freeman’s opinion, Larson really hasn’t done much different than in years past. She’s always done these things, but now being a leader, he said Larson has shined.

“She did so many things that might not show up on the stat sheet, but when you watch film there are so many plays she makes that are so good for us,” Freeman said. “She’s always done that. Now this year, it’s just more of that leadership role that we’re seeing from here. She’s more confident in being the one leading the charge along with Emma Booth and Serena White. It’s a small group of seniors, but it’s a special group the way they go about their business every single day.”

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or Follow on Twitter at

Other notable performances

  • Forrest Gibson, wrestling, finished the week 2-0 with a pin.

  • Ally Brzezinski, finished with 24 points, six rebounds and four assists against Rocori.

  • Breya Sawyer, girls hockey, finished with 17 saves against Alexandria.

  • Thomas Ruhl, boys swimming and diving, won the 200-yard freestyle and 100 backstroke and was part of two winning relays against Bemidji.

  • Mason Kuepers, boys swimming and diving, won the 200-yard individual medley and 100 freestyle and was part of two winning relays against Bemidji.

  • Cade Rosenwald, boys swimming and diving, won the 50-yard freestyle and 100 butterfly and was part of two winning relays against Bemidji.

  • Griffin Rushin, boys basketball, finished with 25 points, six rebounds and six blocked shots against Bemidji and added 27 points against Moorhead.

  • Johnny Pecarich, boys basketball, finished with 20 points, six rebounds and four assists against Bemidji.

  • Max Roby, boys hockey, scored two goals against Alexandria.

  • Brandon Neifert, Alpine skiing, was the top boy skier with a 1:00.78 at Mont du Lac.


Taylor Larson

Taylor Larson

Sport: Hockey

Position: Defenseman

Year: Senior

Age: 17

Height: 5-foot-8


Career highlight: Finishing second in the 2019 Class 2A State Tournament

Other sports: Soccer and track and field

Grade-point average: 4.186

Favorite class: History

Favorite food: Fruit

Favorite movie: “Miracle”

Favorite TV show: “Friends”

Favorite website or app: VSCO


Favorite restaurant: Noodles & Company

Future plans: Undecided. Hopefully attend college and play hockey

Parents: Kim Larson and Colette Fitterer

Taylor Larson

Taylor Larson

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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