Chris Fleck wanted to build a boys’ lacrosse program he could be proud of at Prior Lake. He has accomplished his feat. His Lakers have climbed as high as No. 1 in the rankings this season.
“In the five years I’ve been at Prior Lake, we’ve shifted our program from a mediocre program to one that got to be ranked No. 1 in state,” Fleck said. “My college coach, Rob Graff, at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, always told us to leave the program better than how we found it. I believe we are doing that at Prior Lake.”
Fleck was an assistant coach at Minnetonka during its state championship run in 2009. He took over at Prior Lake the next season.
“Out of college, I was fortunate enough to be offered a coaching job at Minnetonka by Aaron Olivier,” Fleck said. “While at Minnetonka, I was able to learn under Aaron and see many of the things he was able to do to elevate his program to the top program in the state. I learned a lot from that year.”
First and foremost was start from the ground up. Fleck quickly became involved at the youth levels, where he encourages parental involvement.
“I took the role as head coach and made it my goal to do things a bit different than what other programs around the state had been doing,” Fleck said. “I knew with lacrosse being such a young and skill-based sport, that the skills would need to be developed at a young age.”
That young group he started with recently edged top-ranked Rosemount 12-10 in a South Suburban Conference matchup on May 2 to claim the state’s No. 1 spot. The Lakers turned around and dropped a heartbreaking 7-6 decision to Bloomington Jefferson four days later.
“When you’re No. 1, it’s like the Super Bowl for the other team trying to beat you,” Lakers junior midfielder Cullen Sowder said. “You are going to be pushed to the limit every time.”
Sowder, who has committed to play at Ohio State, is one of the three Division I recruits on the roster. The other two are senior defender Austin Polson-McCannon (Detroit Mercy) and sophomore midfielder Ben Ward (Air Force). Senior goalkeeper Aaron Wiederhoeft is headed to Division II Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo.
“Our program has really developed through the years,” Sowder said. “Every year we’ve come together more as a team.”
The Lakers are 8-1 through their first nine games. A year ago they finished 9-6.
“Coach Fleck pushes us to be the best players we can be,” Sowder said. “He’s lighthearted, but can be very serious at times, too. He’s very dedicated.”
As are his players. They are working together to become one of the state’s elite programs on a consistent basis.
“We want to get to the point where we always have a target on our back,” Sowder said. “But you have to stay humble in your drive for success.”