The Lakeville North boys’ lacrosse team has earned a state tournament berth back-to-back years. It now has three-peat on its mind.
The Panthers, the top seed in the Section 1 tournament, finished the regular season ranked No. 2 in the state. They won the South Suburban Conference for the first time in program history and posted a school-best 11-2 record.
“Each team member set a number of goals for the season, in which we come back to them and they’re reminded of their goals on a consistent basis,” Lakeville North coach Jeff Wright said. “As the season has progressed, we’ve really seen the level of play rise from our entire team.”
That was a must considering the Panthers lost seven of their 10 starters from their fourth-place state tournament team of a year ago. They also finished fourth in the state tournament in 2014.
“We came into this season looking for guys to step up their game,” Wright said.
One player Wright didn’t have to worry about in that regard was senior captain Luke Anderson. He is in his fifth season, second as a captain, on the team.
“Luke is one of the best players in the state, if not the best,” Wright said. “He is fast, strong and extremely potent.”
The midfielder scored 37 goals and had 25 assists during the regular season. He is headed to Marquette, which qualified for the NCAA tournament for the first time in its brief existence (four years) as a Division I program.
“It has been very exciting to continue to draw attention from the defense and step into more of a feeder role at times, so that my teammates can step up and make plays,” Anderson said.
Anderson credited a team bonding trip before the start of the season as a key for the Panthers’ success.
“The weekend after tryouts, our team took a trip to Camp Ripley, a military training base,” Anderson said. “We came together as a team in a way I haven’t experienced in my five years on the team.”
He hopes it leads to a return trip to the state tournament, and possibly another school first.
“It would be an incredible experience to make it back,” Anderson said. “My teammates and coaches wish to not only return to the tournament, but to make a run at a state championship.”
Said Wright, “A constant reminder that the boys continue to hear me say is, ‘we cannot plateau; we must continue to improve and stay on the upward climb.’ This group of young men not only believe in themselves and their teammates, but they also happen to be the most well-rounded group that I’ve had in six seasons at Lakeville North.”