Judy Baxter’s summer is going to be much like her fall and winter. The Eden Prairie girls’ lacrosse co-head coach (with Beth Patterson) is an unfaltering lacrosse booster, whether she’s coaching, coordinating, promoting or just simply talking passionately about the sport she loves.
Having just helped lead Eden Prairie to its third consecutive state championship, Baxter is the director of coaching and recruiting for the Minnesota Elite Girls’ Lacrosse Club program. She oversees the coaching for the state’s top club lacrosse team — and does a little coaching herself — and travels the country on weekends, promoting Minnesota lacrosse players to college coaches.
“We haven’t leveled off,” Baxter said. “We are still attracting athletes. There’s still a lot of growth and so much excitement about the game, especially in the outlying areas. And the good news is that we’re getting former players back. They’re getting involved. We have things in place to help the sport grow.”
Baxter said having dominant teams such as Eden Prairie and Blake helps raise the level of play for everyone.
“The level of competition has dramatically improved,” she said. “Our motto this season was ‘Take Nothing for Granted.’ This isn’t something that’s handed to you. We know if we want to stay competitive, we have to work harder, try more, watch more film.”
Teams such as Apple Valley, Edina, Stillwater, Prior Lake and Farmington have established themselves and use Eden Prairie as a measuring stick.
“The gaps are closing,” Baxter said. “I don’t think you’ll continue to see the separation between programs clawing to get to the top.”
That continuous improvement boosts the state’s lacrosse profile nationally, which translates to more collegiate opportunities for local players.
“We haven’t convinced many people [nationally] that Minnesota lacrosse is coming on, but we’re working hard to change that and be successful,” Baxter said. “I drive past Flying Cloud [Fields] and I see 29 fields full of soccer players. Someday, I hope I can look over and see those fields full of lacrosse players.”
Basking awhile longer
Farmington third baseman Emma Frost took the field at Caswell Park in North Mankato for her second state tournament appearance a little more than two weeks ago. There was a much different feel than that of two years ago.
“Our three seniors [Emily Berdan, Caitie Dully and Maddie Muelken] really brought everybody together in this group,” Frost said. “We all hung out together, and everybody contributed to us winning.”
It was Frost who delivered the biggest shot. Her two-out, walk-off home run in the 10th inning gave Farmington a 1-0 victory over Anoka for the Class 4A championship. It was the first title for a Farmington team in school history. The school was founded in 1857.
“As soon as I hit it, I knew it was gone,” Frost said. It was her 11th round-tripper of the season. “It’s the greatest feeling I’ve ever had on a softball field. It’s pretty cool to be the first one from the school to win a state championship.”
Frost, who also homered in a 2-0 victory over No. 1-ranked Chanhassen in the semifinals, will find herself in a different role next season. She will be one of those seniors who will have to lead like the trio this past year.
Muelken and Berdan were the Tigers’ starting battery (pitcher and catcher) while Dully was the second baseman. “Statistically and leadership-wise they were very important to our team,’’ Frost said. “They all had great leadership qualities.”
For now, Frost will continue to bask in the glory of winning a state championship.
“People have been calling and texting me saying ‘Congratulations’ that I haven’t talked to in a couple of years,’’ Frost said. “That’s pretty cool.”
How long does she expect it to continue?
“I don’t know if it will actually be done until the season starts next year, to be honest,” she said.
More highlights ahead
On these longest of summer days, Lucas McGregor and his Centennial hockey teammates are at the Schwan Super Rink in Blaine by 6 a.m. three days a week for their offseason training program.
It’s been almost four months since the Cougars, seeded No. 1 in their section, suffered a 4-3 loss to Maple Grove in the section final, ending their hopes of playing in the state tournament.
“We doubled their shots [39-16] and still didn’t come out on top,” McGregor recalled recently, answering quickly enough to make you think it’s still fresh in his mind.
Asked how many shots he took, the senior replied, “Probably not enough.’’
The Cougars got plenty from McGregor last season. After a strong sophomore year, the forward led his team with 29 goals and 25 assists. The team’s 22 victories were second in school history behind the state championship team of 2004.
He’s on pace to become the program’s third-leading scorer, behind two members of that 2004 team — former Mr. Hockey winner Tom Gorowsky and R.J. Anderson. One former player he’s likely to pass — Tyler Pitlick — plays in the NHL for Edmonton.
“I’m looking for more of the same next year,” said the 5-10, 165-pound McGregor, who has drawn interest from nearly a dozen colleges, including Minnesota. Last week the Cougars’ next captain visited Penn State. While he expects to play junior hockey first, his dream, he said, is to play for the Gophers.
He plans to play hockey in the Elite League later this year and wide receiver for Centennial’s football team, which also named him a captain.
But first, there’s what he calls “the highlight of the summer”: A hockey team trip next month to New York. Sightseeing plans include visits to the Statue of Liberty and the 9/11 Memorial, and a Kendrick Lamar concert. And a little hockey, too.
“I’ve never been to New York City,’’ McGregor said. “I don’t think we’ll get bored very easily.’’