Brainerd Boys Soccer Team Plays with Heavy Hearts in 2018
“It was a shock,” Tom Grausam, Brainerd Boys Soccer Head Coach, said.
Over the offseason, the Brainerd boys soccer team was faced with a challenge bigger than anything that could happen on the field when one of their teammates, Jake Haapajoki, took his own life.
“It was unbelievable,” Noah Sundberg, Senior Goalkeeper, said. “I remember waking up that day and I got a text. I looked at my phone and I said, ‘it’s not him,’ got to school, heard it was him, and it was just heartbreaking.”
At the beginning of the season, the Brainerd soccer team made sure Haapajoki will remain a Warrior forever.
“We retired his jersey, so nobody will ever wear that jersey again,” Grausam said.
This tragedy has brought the Warriors closer together like never before.
“Our team is closer than ever this year,” Ben Kippes, Senior Defenseman, said. “No hard feelings between anyone, everyone is really close. It’s a tight knit little family.”
And this season will be played with a little extra motivation.
“We’re just dedicating the season, this one’s different,” Sundberg said. “This season’s for Jake: even if you didn’t know him, he still made an impact, and will forever make an impact on the Brainerd soccer team.”
The team remembers Jake before every game with a prayer, and all the bonding is now helping the team on the field.
“I think it really brings up our communication, and it helps us be focused and determined,” Kippes said.
The Warriors are off to a 3-1 start averaging more than three goals a game.
“So far, I’ve liked what I’ve seen,” Grausam said. “They’re gelling; they’re still getting used to playing at this high intensity level.”
For the seniors who know what it’s like to play at the varsity level, it is now or never for that state tournament run.
“As I was driving to tryouts, I just thought to myself, ‘this is our last chance,’” Sundberg said. “There’s five or six of us where this is our last run, and if we don’t get our goal, state, there is no coming back.”
The Warriors will be playing with heavy hearts all season as they try to make that state tournament run.
Some students also started the Lighthouse Project in Jake Haapajoki’s honor to improve mental health in the community. For more information on the Lighthouse Project, you can visit their website at https://lhpmn.org/.