A spectacular individual effort and a game of keep-away proved to be the difference for Lakeville North as the Panthers slipped past Blaine 14-13 on Tuesday in the girls' lacrosse state quarterfinals.
Down a goal with less than seven minutes left, Abby Schaefer's hustle reenergized a Lakeville North team that had its three-goal lead vanish into a one-goal deficit. The senior midfielder raced downfield and corralled a loose ball just before it crossed the end line, came back out front, cut across the Blaine goal and drilled the game-tying goal.
To that point, Blaine had outplayed the Panthers in the second half at Minnetonka High School, rallying from a 10-7 halftime deficit. Abby Jones, Blaine's blazing midfielder who led the state in goals with 101, scored her seventh goal of the game to give the Bengals a 13-12 lead with 6:35 left.
Just a few seconds later, Schaefer's remarkable individual play stemmed Blaine's momentum.
"That hustle play from Abby started everything up for us," said sophomore forward Olivia Mattis, who had four goals and an assist for the Panthers. "That's when we got our momentum back."
Less than a minute later, Chloe Fisher put the Panthers back on top 14-13. After that, Lakeville North played ball control, maintaining possession for nearly all of the last five minutes of the game.
"In a game when it's 50-50, we want the ball in our sticks," Lakeville North coach Laura Childs said. "We don't need to win by a lot, we just need to win. I didn't want any more goals.''
"That was insane," Mattis said. "It was something new for us, but we did it really well."
Blake 12, Minnehaha Academy 11: A once comfortable Bears' lead dwindled to a single goal with less than two minutes left, but they held on to defeat first-time entrant Minnehaha Academy and advance to the semifinals for the 12th consecutive season.
Blake, the No. 3 seed in the tournament, had defeated Minnehaha Academy 23-10 during the regular season. The Redhawks were clearly improved since that meeting, leaning on young talent and a physical style to keep the game within reach.
Trailing 11-7, Minnehaha Academy scored four of the game's last five goals. Eighth-grader Jaylen Rosga's seventh tally of the game, with 1:54 left, cut the lead to one.
"I would have gotten worried if our middies were having trouble with the draw," said forward Emma Burke, who led Blake (14-4) with four goals and four assists. "But they have a lot of grit and hustle and intensity and they were able to get the ball when we needed to."
Minnehaha Academy (13-3) had one final possession after scoring, but an errant pass cost the Redhawks their final opportunity. Blake kept possession and ran out the clock.
"Even though it's not our prettiest game, that we can still come out on top speaks volumes about our girls,'' coach Sarah Fellows said.
Things are looking up for the Redhawks (13-3), who won just nine total games in the previous three seasons.
"We have continued to improve all season long," Minnehaha Academy coach Hannah Lundstrom said. "As disappointing as this is, these girls are already talking next game.''
Apple Valley 18, Maple Grove 4: It says volumes about what Apple Valley has become this season that the Eagles spent the first half admittedly battling nerves and still led Maple Grove by five goals at halftime.
In the second half, however, Apple Valley displayed the dominance that has been its trademark this season, shutting out the Crimson.
"It took us a moment to find our rhythm. Just jitters of being in the state tournament," Apple Valley coach Alexandra Ross said.
The Eagles got five goals and five assists from Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year Reagan Roelofs, who extended her state scoring record to 515 points. It was the 13th consecutive victory for Apple Valley (16-1), all but one of which was by double digits.
Their one close game was the 13-12 victory over No. 1-ranked Prior Lake in the Section 6 finals, a signature victory that Ross stressed was just a step toward the ultimate goal.
"We wanted to make sure the goal wasn't just to beat Prior Lake but to get to championship Saturday," Ross said.
Roelofs said the Eagles, in the first half, were still riding the high of that triumph.
"We're still pretty hyped about it," she said. "The second half just reset us. We said we've got this. Just go out there and kill it."
Eden Prairie 17, Stillwater 7: After her team's victory, Eden Prairie co-head coach Judy Baxter reminded her players to enjoy themselves.
"OK, we should be celebrating," she said.
Such is the case for a team for which nothing short of state championships will satisfy.
"That's obviously the goal," said junior Brooke Lewis, who scored five goals for the Eagles. "Right now, we're on the road to our fourth state championships."
The No. 1 seed and three-time defending state champs took control in the first half, building a 13-3 halftime lead.
"Our coach tells us to dictate from the beginning," Lewis said. "If you get the first few goals, it puts the other team down right away."