Nothing builds interest in a sport like a good old-fashioned rivalry. As the new kids on the block in terms of high school sports, lacrosse has enjoyed an extended honeymoon marked by rapid growth, both at the youth levels and in the high school ranks.
But as the newness wears off, something more substantial is necessary to keep interest in the sport from leveling off: a reason to watch. And so we come to this week’s girls’ lacrosse match between Blake and Eden Prairie, without question the biggest rivalry in the sport, regardless of gender.
The reasons are many. Members of both teams dot the rosters of the Minnesota Elite Girls’ Lacrosse club, of which the head coaches from both teams — Judy Baxter of Eden Prairie and Laura Mark of Blake — are coaching directors. Eden Prairie has lost just five times to Minnesota teams in the past seven years, but all the losses have been to Blake. The two teams have met in all six state championships since the MSHSL began sponsoring the state tournament in 2007. Blake has won three in a row and four overall.
The two teams are scheduled to meet Friday at Eden Prairie in what has become the traditional end-of-the-season finale. No. 2-ranked Blake (9-2), fresh off a 13-8 victory over No. 3 Stillwater, is led by junior middie Lydia Sutton, the Bears’ leading scorer with 34 goals. She recently became the youngest member of the Canadian Women’s National Team and will play in the Women’s World Lacrosse Championships this summer in Oshawa, Ontario.
Eden Prairie (10-1) is ranked No. 1 and counters with an offensive juggernaut led by middies Emma Claire Fontenot (27 goals, 47 points) and Anna Johnson (27 goals) and one of the state’s top goalies in senior McKenzie Johnson.
Game time is set for 4:30 p.m. for what could likely be a preview of the state championship game.