For the past three seasons, senior midfielder Katie Moynihan was an integral part of the success enjoyed by Apple Valley’s girls’ lacrosse team.
Her importance to the Eagles became even more evident a year ago. She tore the ACL in her left knee in the final week of the regular season. The team lost three of five games in her absence, and was eliminated in the Section 3 semifinals.
“The timing wasn’t the best. It was the home stretch,” Moynihan said. “It was very frustrating. I didn’t understand why it had to happen to me.”
Moynihan was determined not to let it become a setback. She diligently went through rehabilitation for nine months, eagerly preparing for her final season.
“I wanted to come back stronger and better than I was the year before,” Moynihan said. “I wanted to prove it was possible to get back to a high stage.”
Moynihan has done just that. She has scored 26 goals in the Eagles’ first seven games.
“It was hard to get any offense going without Katie last year,” Apple Valley coach Alexandra Ross said. “We were missing that foundation piece.”
The Eagles were coming off a state tournament appearance in 2014, their second trip in program history. Moynihan, one of four captains, has been a varsity player since her freshman season, when she played a limited role.
“I was timid at first,” Moynihan said. “Getting on the field as a freshman was really exciting. It helped my overall confidence.”
The Eagles are ranked fifth in the state, according to the coaches association’s poll. They are 6-1. Their only setback was 15-14 at the hands of No. 2 Prior Lake. It came five days after they defeated No. 9 Lakeville South 10-6.
Moynihan is joined in the midfield by her younger sister, Molly, and Reagan Roelofs. They are two of the six sophomores in the starting lineup and have combined for 43 goals.
The Eagles start three sophomores and one freshman among their attackers. The sophomores are Sophia Leong, Josie Segar and Emma Vogelgesang while Baylee Lewis is the freshman. Leong has netted 16 goals.
The other starter from the sophomore class is defender Kealey Jensen.
“Our midfield and our offense is our strength,” Ross said. “These players have been starters for over two years, which allows us to build on previous years rather than starting from the beginning. The girls are starting to understand the concepts of the game and we don’t have to focus on the basics as much. We are multidimensional.”
Jensen is joined on defense by three senior letterwinners in Ashley Flake, Olivia Flynn and Tanna Ouimette. Junior Ellie Kuchera is the goalkeeper.
“Our defense is fast and athletic,” Ross said. “It is the fastest defense we’ve had at Apple Valley, and we’re trying to take advantage of that by being more aggressive.”
The Eagles hope to get the team back where it was in 2014 — in the state tournament.
“We’re in one of the toughest sections in the state, but we know what it takes,” Moynihan said. “It comes down to good execution at the end of the season.”