The Panthers have thumped several opponents by double digits in a year full of promise.
Hannah Koloski's recently completed college recruiting process was, in her words, a "shocking and a little scary."
Throughout this season, that's probably the thought more than one team had after running into Lakeville North's revamped girls' lacrosse team.
The Panthers roared to an 11-2 record en route to the top seed in the Section 3 playoffs. The only losses were to Eden Prairie and the Blake School, the finalists in all five MSHSL-sponsored state tournaments.
Otherwise? Opponents indeed have been shocked and perhaps a little scared by Lakeville North.
The Panthers won their 11 regular-season games by an average of 10.5 goals. Last year the team won only one game by double digits.
"A lot of the girls came into this season expecting to pull games off," coach Kate Leavell said. "This is definitely a more-developed program. The girls came back taller, stronger. I wasn't sure how much of a difference it could make until the first game."
An 11-goal victory over Farmington set the stage.
"You could tell right away," Leavell said. "I was happy to see all of their progress and changes mattered when it counted."
Though the team regressed in an 18-11 loss to Eden Prairie two nights after the season opener, it knifed through the next eight games. Next up on May 14 was top-ranked Blake, a team that had defeated every Minnesota opponent in its path the past two seasons prior to the game.
Lakeville North jumped to a 4-0 lead, but to no one's surprise Blake got back on track. The Bears eventually scored the game-winner with 10 seconds to play, avoiding what would have been a colossal upset.
Understandably disappointed, the Panthers didn't fret long.
"We haven't panicked all season," Leavell said.
Lakeville North hardly rolled over. The team waltzed to its first South Suburban Conference championship, finishing the season with a pair of victories.
"The team is so calm and making the right decisions," Leavell said. "They know they have some pressure on them, and they're using it as a drive to play better."
Koloski is at the forefront of the potent offensive attack. The junior midfielder opted to not play hockey this winter to instead focus solely on school and lacrosse. Koloski said she honed in on her shot, draw controls and speed. The results speak for themselves.
Koloski had six goals against the Bears. After an eight-goal burst in the season finale against Burnsville, she finished the regular season with a team-high 59 goals to go with 21 assists. She is one of four Panthers players with more than 50 points, joining Kacie Waagbo (95), Lauren Storhoff (60) and Logan Dobratz (55).
"We feel a lot more united this season," said Koloski, a junior who received college interest from a handful of prominent Eastern teams before deciding on Louisville over San Diego State.
"We don't play the blame game; we hold ourselves accountable instead. We've gotten used to each other's play and that has led to us scoring more."
Brian Stensaas • 612-673-4127