Sidestepping a celebratory postgame water dousing from two of his players, Prior Lake boys’ lacrosse coach Chris Fleck exclaimed, “I saw that coming!”
Charting the Lakers’ rise to first-time state champions required a longer view. Section final losers the past two seasons, Prior Lake made its state tournament debut count. A 12-5 defeat of Lakeville North on Saturday at Chanhassen High School provided a dream finish.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the guys,” said Fleck, not nimble enough to avoid getting wet from the midsection down.
Lakeville North beat Prior Lake 9-6 in the regular season, but the Lakers took the all-important rematch.
“We redeemed ourselves,” said senior attackman Evan Bush, who notched a hat trick.
No. 2 seed Prior Lake (15-4) built a 7-0 first-quarter lead as senior Jack Dessler dominated faceoffs and provided the Lakers with a huge possession advantage. A concussion sidelined Dessler for the regular-season loss to the Panthers. How much difference can one player make? When that player is the faceoff specialist in a sport where possession is vital, the difference is huge.
Dessler either won the faceoff clean or helped the Lakers gain possession on all eight first-quarter opportunities. Prior Lake led 1-0, then scored three goals in 48 seconds.
The fast start especially pleased Dessler, who said, “That takes a lot of pressure off me.” Prior Lake’s rise to a state champion coincided with Dessler’s improvement the past three seasons into the state’s premier faceoff specialist.
Athletic ability and fast hands help. But the right mind-set is key. Saturday showcased Dessler’s years of work before and after practices.
“If you let somebody get in your head or let the game get in your head, your faceoffs are screwed up,” Dessler said. “Sophomore year until now I came a long way.”
“He’s our MVP,” Fleck said. “By us being able to get the ball and by us converting on offense over and over again, you could see it just depleted Lakeville North.”
Trailing 9-1 at halftime, No. 1 seed Lakeville North (16-3) chipped away and cut Prior Lake’s lead to 10-3 after three quarters. Bush completed his hat trick to start the fourth quarter and gave his team a cushion.
“We came out hot,” Bush said. “But we kept pushing. The score was always 0-0 to us.”
Six players scored for Prior Lake, a collective effort that also marked the evolution from a selfish team hovering around .500 to united state champions. Fleck said a team meeting helped get a talented group on track.
“We were a bunch of individuals and we needed to be a team — not worrying about who is getting stats or awards,” Fleck said.